Coronavirus travel restrictions impact Hawaii’s tourism industry, local officials take action to ensure safety

HONOLULU, HI — Tourism was the largest contributor to Hawaii’s economy — with about 250,000 visitors on average per day, who spent close to $18 billion a year.

But that has obviously changed since the coronavirus pandemic.

Once bustling tourist spots like Waikiki are now empty — as the state enters the second week of its 14-day mandatory self-quarantine for all passengers arriving in Hawaii from out of state.

On Wednesday, only about 664 people arrived in Hawaii — and of that number, only 120 were visitors.

Despite the impact it would have on the state’s economy — Hawaii mayors are taking more drastic steps to stop all tourists from coming to prevent the spread of the deadly disease.

On Thursday, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced that he, and the mayors of Kauai and Maui, have sent a letter to President Donald Trump to request a stop to all visitor air travel to Hawaii until April 30.

Essential employees, such as those in public health, financial service and food supply would be exempted.

And even those who take care of tourists on a regular basis agree with the move.

“Now is not the time for them to come here to Hawai’i. I know we welcome everybody to come and visit Hawai’i but then with this kind of situation, I think it makes sense that they’re going to be staying home where they’re at,” said Liezl Peliño Oandasan, hotel manager

“I think that if travel is allowed, it’s just going to keep spreading and it’s just going to go all over the place, like how it is right now. Until people literally stay home and have as little contact as possible, it’s not going to go away, unfortunately, and I feel like the only way we can get around it is literally to have a travel ban for not just Hawai’i in general, honestly, it should be for the entire world. It’s very painful that we have to go through something like this but unfortunately, it’s just something that needs to happen,” said Dennis Isidro, hotel director.

The White House has responded to the Mayors’ letter and said that it is up to Governor David Ige to make the decision on what’s best for his state.

Others, especially those who rely on tourism for their livelihood, want Ige to take a pause.

President Trump has approved a major disaster declaration for Hawai’i, allowing federal funding to be made available to state government entities and even some nonprofits.

Hawaii is also expected to get about $4 billion from the government’s historic stimulus package.

As of Thursday afternoon, Hawai’i has 285 reported cases of coronavirus with most of the cases in Oahu with 206.

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