HONOLULU (AP) – New federal rules for international travelers are expected to help Hawaii’s crippled tourism industry.
The state’s international market has been almost nonexistent since the pandemic largely halted travel last year.
Last week, the White House relaxed rules that previously barred some foreign travelers from coming to the United States. Foreign visitors can now come with proof of vaccination and negative COVID-19 tests.
Unvaccinated U.S. citizens and residents can also travel to the United States from other countries, but they must undergo two tests, once before travel and once after arrival.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported on Monday that the changes could boost international travel to the islands. It is down 97% from before the pandemic.
Currently, Hawaii only requires proof of vaccination or a single pre-flight test for travelers from the continental United States. The state had also authorized travel with the same rules from certain countries, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Canada, Tahiti and the Philippines.
Some see the new rules as more restrictive on Japanese travelers, a major component of Hawaii’s tourism industry.
Dave Erdman, president of a Pacific marketing company, said Japanese media portrayed the new rules differently from US media. The new policy adds a step for Japanese travelers by requiring vaccinations for entry.
“In the US / Hawaii, the media described the change as an ‘easing’ of restrictions for travelers to come to the US. But Japanese media described the change as a ‘tightening’ of US restrictions,” he said. Erdman said.
Japan and other key markets for Hawaii tourism have high vaccination rates and authorities expect this trend to continue in the months to come.
“Hawaii’s major international source markets are on track to surpass immunization levels in the United States – so this will be an opportune time to travel safely,” said Danny Ojiri, vice president of market development for Outrigger Hospitality Group, a luxury hotel chain and management company based in Honolulu. “After a slow start at the start of the year, Japan’s immunization effort has progressed at a steady pace; currently 55% of them are fully vaccinated and 67% have received their first vaccine. “
Ojiri added, “The Japanese population is expected to be at least 75% vaccinated by November. “
Hawaiian Airlines spokesman Alex Da Silva said the company was “ready to hit the road once restrictions are relaxed and the return request is made.”
“The announcement is good news and an important step towards reactivating travel to the United States – and Hawaii – from additional international destinations with a standard set of security protocols,” said Da Silva. “This approach is in line with procedures already in place in the countries we serve, and we look forward to hearing details of the program in the coming weeks. “
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