Hawai‘i Tourism Now: Lt. Gov. Josh Green Answers Questions About the Future of Hawai‘i’s Tourism Industry
Hawai’i Lieutenant Governor Josh Green sits down with Pacific Media Group COO and MauiNow director, Jack Dugan to answer questions regarding tourism’s role in Hawai’i’s economy, future and the laid-off residents of the state.
Hawai’i has the lowest mortality rates in the nation and has flattened the curve for phase one in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving into phase two, Green said that recovery and keeping infections at a minimum are key factors to economic recovery.
The Lieutenant Governor highlighted the importance of tourism to over 100,000 Hawai’i residents who rely on travelers to maintain their capability to afford to live in Hawai’i.
“When we return the kama’aina economy, 150,000 out of the 250,000 that became unemployed will go back to work…that leaves at least 100,000 individuals that are somehow very significantly tied to tourism that will still be out of work until we open up the state’s borders,” Green said.
Tourism accounts for over $2 billion in state tax revenue, directly or indirectly supporting over 200,000 jobs.
“I intend to share with you today, a program which I hope to get approved which is called ‘Travel with Aloha,’ where we ask people to travel safely back…that more than anything is important – keeping Hawai’i’s kūpuna safe from disease, keeping us all safe and healthy,” Green added.
On the topic of reopening, Green said that the key factors to reopening the state tourism are:
• week over week reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases,
• maintain capacity to hospitals,
• restore elective surgeries and healthcare procedures,
• proper screening, tracking, and testing.
Green sees two scenarios for visitors wanting to travel to Hawai’i in the future,
“You could have people test beforehand because they are mandated…otherwise we are going to have you in 14-day quarantine…The alternative is, you tell people to adhere to this Travel with Aloha program – which is to get a test – and if you don’t, you are going to face a 4-6 hour delay at the airport…until we assure ourselves you are not a high risk for COVID-19.”
The Lieutenant Governor also warned of the risks of reopening the state too soon which can result in a surge in new cases and overcapacity in hospital beds and ventilators.
“If you allow individuals to come in, just one percent and a tiny fraction of them are asymptomatic carriers of the disease, within 10 weeks…you get a surge past our capacity of the intensive care units and the ventilators,” Green said.
In June of 2019, the state of Hawai’i had 950,000 travelers – around 30,000 daily visitors.
Green cautioned that even if the state only accepted 20% of visitors, one percent of those infected visitors could overwhelm our hospital capacity and lead to exponential growth in cases.