LIHUE, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - After several months, Kauai is welcoming back trans-Pacific travelers as it rejoins the state’s Safe Travels program on Monday.
Mayor Derek Kawakami said he believes it’s finally time to reopen to visitors.
“We are now in a much better place today to have travelers coming in, and I think as more vaccines get out, generally speaking, the entire world will be in a better place,” he said.
The county was part of the pre-travel testing program with all the other islands. But it opted out in December, citing a rise in cases from trans-Pacific travelers.
Officials said 80% of the infections at the time were from people who traveled outside Kauai.
Kauai had then welcomed back inter-island travelers and adopted resort bubbles. But now, trans-Pacific travelers will be able to skip quarantine altogether if they follow the Safe Travels rules, which include taking a COVID-19 test from an approved partner 72 hours before their flight.
Kawakami said businesses dependent on the tourism industry really suffered, but what really helped keep some of the mom and pops alive was the fact that the county remained in Tier 4 of its reopening plan for a while.
“Our operation is strong because we listen to all facets of our society. We listen to the public health experts, we weigh in the economic impacts,” Kawakami said.
Rejoining the Safe Travels program will help provide a major boost to businesses that were struggling to stay afloat, Kawakami added.
“Our bars, restaurants for the most part have been able to operate, youth sports have been able to get back online, so this is going to be a much-needed injection of economic stimulus from our visitor industry.”