Hawaii is set to welcome its first international tourists back from the end of next week. Beginning on November 6th, travelers from Japan will be able to forego quarantine if they can provide a negative COVID-test result no older than 72 hours. Meanwhile, they will still have to isolate for 14 days when returning to Japan.
Ten flights for the whole of November
On Tuesday, the governor of Hawaii, David Ige, announced that from November 6th onwards, Japanese visitors would be able to forego quarantine through the island state’s pre-travel testing program. However, officials said they were not expecting an “avalanche” of Japanese tourists, as the pre-travel program is not reciprocated. Those returning to Japan from the United States will still need to quarantine for two weeks.
“Please feel free to safely visit our islands. We are ready and delighted to welcome you back,” Mr Ige addressed Japanese travelers at a press conference held at Honolulu Airport, reported from by Hawaii News Now.
Hawaiian Airlines, All Nippon Airways, and Japan Airlines are the carriers that will resume service. Ten flights are scheduled from Tokyo Haneda and Osaka to Honolulu starting on November 6th. The plans are for frequencies to increase in December, but as we have come to know, 2020 is not the year to bet on anything when it comes to aviation.
More countries to follow?
Japanese tourists are the largest group of international visitors to Hawaii, with 1,5 million people arriving in 2019. Hawaii’s governor also expressed interest in extending the pre-arrival testing program to other countries where the infection rate is low, such as Canada (the second-largest group of international tourists), South Korea, Taiwan, and New Zealand.
The pre-travel testing regime requires travelers to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, no older than 72 hours prior to departure. Visitors to Hawaii may then forego the mandatory 14-day quarantine. Those wishing to travel from Japan must have their tests done at one of 21 trusted facilities.
Domestic tourists foregoing masks irk authorities
Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program has been in place for domestic travelers from the US mainland since October 15th. According to Hawaii News Now, since then, 94,000 passengers have arrived, about 10,000 of which have had to quarantine. About one-third are returning residents, but there are also temporary visitors. While certainly welcomed by Hawaii’s tourism-reliant economy, their behavior is not altogether without criticism.
The President and CEO of Hawaii’s Tourism Authority, John De Fries (who only accepted the position in September this year), said that he was shocked to witness the complacency with which people were choosing not to wear a face mask. When asked if he believed this to be out of ignorance or arrogance, he said it is probably a mixture of both.
Do you think pre-travel test programs are the way forward to reopen international travel? Should countries with low infection-rates come first? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.