New COVID-19 testing requirement further delays Chinese tourism to Hawaii

Starting Jan. 5, all travelers from China must show a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding a flight to the U.S.
Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 5:25 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 29, 2022 at 7:12 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Starting Jan. 5, all travelers from China must show a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding a flight to the U.S.

The new testing requirement comes as China’s easing of restrictions is fueling a surge in COVID cases and concern in many countries.

Next week also marks the start of China’s massive “chunyun” migration event when hundreds of millions of people travel in and out of China for Lunar New Year family reunions. That 40 day travel period could be a global super spreader event if precautions aren’t taken.

Italian officials are now calling on the European Union to test all passengers arriving from China, after half the arrivals at Milan’s airport from China on Monday tested positive for COVID.

The risk is lower in Hawaii — where direct flights from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan have been suspended since early 2020 — and won’t be returning any time soon.

“Safety is the first so we don’t want people coming from China with new variants,” said Sonny Zhang, executive director of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii.

But fewer Chinese tourists means less Chinese money coming in and another delay in economic recovery.

Pre-COVID, HTA reported more than 200,000 Chinese tourists contributed about $300 million to Hawaii’s economy.

“Chinese tourists are spending big during their trip. And also, they can invest on others. You know, real estate is one thing they do investment, and other business opportunities as well,” Zhang said.

Still, organizers say the news doesn’t dampen the excitement of the Chamber’s first massive in-person Lunar New Year celebration in three years.

Festivities will take place on January 13 and 14 at the Chinatown Cultural Plaza in downtown Honolulu.

And business owners are hopeful about recovery.

“After three or six months, the travelers are going to going back to the original level, even bigger, because, you know, people have been locked down for so long,” Zhang said.

While China plans to scrap quarantine for in-bound travelers starting January 8, local travel agents say rules are constantly changing.

“The testing is going to be a little bit of a hurdle for people. But I think, if they want to come here, they’re going to make the effort,” said Chamber president-elect Mike Young.

The Chinese Chamber says Hawaii remains a top destination for Chinese visitors. It also plans to renew trade with sister cities like Chengdu and Zhongshan.

“For a long time, it’s just been virtual. But now, I think as things continue to open up there, we will probably make some in person visits,” Young said.