Critics question why Ige is asking visitors to stay away, but keeping popular attractions open

Despite Gov. David Ige’s controversial plea that tourist stay home, the state says it will not close any of its popular and scenic visitor attractions.
Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 5:35 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 24, 2021 at 5:46 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Monday, the governor urged visitors to cancel upcoming travel to Hawaii amid the state’s ongoing COVID surge.

But he stopped short of instituting any new restrictions in place.

And on Tuesday, the state said it wouldn’t close any of its scenic or recreational sites in a bid to discourage tourists from coming.

Critics say it’s hypocritical for the state to keep popular visitor attractions like the Diamond Head State Monument, the Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail and the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet open if it really wants visitors not to come here.

“It’s mixed message,” said Healani Sonoda-Pale, of Ka Lahui Hawaii.

Sonoda-Pale said the governor’s request to potential visitors needs to be backed up by actions.

“Saying don’t come to Hawaii is definitely not enough. He needs to ... reinstate the COVID-19 mandatory testing for (all) trans-Pacific travel,” she said.

But the governor said travel testing for vaccinated people is likely illegal.

The state also said it has no plans to close attractions like Diamond Head and Makapuu but will coordinate with the counties if any closures are needed.

“When the counties implement restrictions, the state usually follows suit to minimize confusion about state/county facilities, parks and beaches,” said Jodi Leong, a spokeswoman for the governor.

Mufi Hannemann, CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, said now is not the time to tell visitors to stay home. While arrivals in June and July rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, he said bookings for September and October will be soft.

“This is not a good message to be sending out right now because we are trying our best to help the state recover economically,” he said.

Despite the governor’s pleas, visitors contacted by Hawaii News Now said they’ve been vaccinated and said they pose little risk of spread.

“People in our party are vaccinated so I felt pretty safe,” Alyssa Mirabal of Santa Fe, New Mexico, said after hiking the Diamond Head Trail.

“This is a trip we have pushed back since May 2020, we’re excited to be here. So I’d be ... bummed if stuff gets canceled or closed while we’re here.”

Added visitor Naomi Godfrey:

“I’m excited to go and it’s nice to be able to travel right now. We’re optimistic. We’re hoping that everything is open and we will able to get around and have some fun in Hawaii,” she said.

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