To Revive Ailing Tourism Economy, Hawaii Says Out-of-State Travelers Can Now Bypass 2-Week Quarantine

Hawaii Governor David Ige announced on Wednesday that a pre-travel testing program will be implemented throughout the state starting October 15. It will allow out-of-state travelers to bypass the 14-day quarantine period if they show a negative COVID-19 test result upon arrival.

The test will need to be taken 72 hours before travelers arrive in the island. They will be required to have their temperatures checked and complete a travel questionnaire once their flight touch down on Hawaii.

As part of an agreement with the state, the approved testing partners for this program are CVS and Kaiser Permanente, according to a press release by the governor's office.

Ige originally announced the program back in June, with an August 1 start date. However, spikes in COVID-19 cases on the U.S. mainland and in Oahu, as well as a shortage of testing supplies, caused delays for both that date and another proposed to start on October 1.

The pre-travel testing program will serve as a way to encourage greater tourism in Hawaii while still keeping residents safe. More than 10 million tourists visit the islands annually as tourism is the largest business in Hawaii, producing a substantial portion of its tax revenue. However, since the start of the pandemic, tourism in Hawaii has seen a 90-percent downfall, leaving thousands unemployed and hundreds of hotels to close. In April, Hawaii was third on the list of states with the highest unemployment rates in the nation as a result of the pandemic.

Hawaiian Island
A beach at the Four Seasons Hotel Hualalai is viewed on December 17, 2016, along the Kona Kohala Coast, Hawaii. Hawaii, the largest of all the Hawaiian Islands at 4,000 square miles and growing, features active volcanoes, large cattle ranches, unusual flora and fauna, waterfalls, rainforests, and occasionally, snowcapped mountains. George Rose/Getty Images/Getty

On Tuesday, representatives from Hawaii's tourism industry responded to the delay of the October 1 date, telling Hawaii News Now that they believe it is important to start the testing program in October in order to revive the industry.

"The more we delay, the more dire the situation becomes for our small business and local business community," said Sherry Menor-McNamara, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, in a letter to Ige.

Along with the testing program, Ige approved the use of "resort bubbles" on the island of Kauai, which will allow visitors in participating hotels some freedom if they are required to quarantine.

"This is viewed as one of the key measures for revitalizing Hawai'i's visitor-centric economy, while providing protection for the spread of COVID-19," Ige said in a press release.

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green, who is overseeing the rollout of the testing program and recently tested positive for the coronavirus, also emphasized the testing program's role in growing Hawaii's economy.

"I worry about the long-term impacts of economic distress and that impact this has on our people, when they can't afford their homes as easily or groceries or health care," Green said in a Wednesday news conference.

He added that the program "definitely provides economic opportunity to our state."

The announcement comes as Oahu, the most visited of the Hawaiian islands, settles in its third week of stay-at-home orders—after a surge of new cases in August caused a second lockdown for the island. With only essential businesses being able to operate, the lockdown has created yet another blow for the economy and it is unknown when Ige will ease restrictions.

Newsweek reached out to Green's office and the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association for comment.