County Officials Defend Use of Kamaʻāina Program as Incentive to Visitors who Take Post-Arrival Test
By Wendy Osher
Some participating businesses in the County of Maui’s Kamaʻāina First program are now offering incentives to visitors who voluntarily take a post-arrival COVID-19 test 72 hours after landing in Maui County.
But the extension of offers to visitors via the program’s new Mahalo Card, has prompted criticism from some who say the program was established and intended for residents.
Maui Mayor Michael Victorino defended the move during a media briefing on Monday saying, “I want to remind the businesses out there that this is an opportunity for you to maybe bring in new clientele that maybe has never come into your shop or business; an opportunity to show your wares and maybe expand your horizons; to give you a chance to touch customers that maybe ordinarily would not have come into your business.”
He continued saying, “I think it’s a win-win situation, but it’s your call as a business. So those kamaʻāina who are getting upset, like I was taking it away from them–we had no intent. This is really to help at a most unprecedented time, our businesses to have more opportunities. Hey, if that’s wrong, I’ve missed the boat and apologize upfront to everyone,” said Mayor Victorino.
To date, about 200 people have volunteered to take the post-arrival test in Maui County.
Visitors who take the post-arrival test offered by the County of Maui receive the Kamaʻāina First “Mahalo Card,” which essentially gives them access to deals via the Kamaʻāina First program.
“It’s an incentive to our trans-Pacific travelers who voluntarily help to keep our community safe and healthy by taking a post-(arrival) COVID test,” said JoAnn Inamasu, director of the Maui Office of Economic Development. She noted that the cost of this post-test is covered by the County of Maui and is offered to visitors and returning residents alike.
The cards are issued by the physician and/or the clinic that is administering the post-travel COVID-19 test. The expiration date on the card coincides with the date of their departure, according to Inamasu.
The voluntary Kamaʻāina First program was launched in June to help kick-start the Maui economy by having local businesses offer deals and discounts to residents via the kamaainafirst.com website.
County officials say the program has evolved, and the website has hundreds of offers ranging from discounts on staycations, activities, meals, services and products. Since its launch, the website has garnered 700 registered vendors and thousands of users, according to county officials.
County officials noted that vendors and businesses can opt out of the Mahalo Card portion of the program. Recipients of a Mahalo Card are asked to check the Kamaʻāina First website to see which deals are available for individuals who have taken the County’s post-arrival test.