In March Hawaii started asking tourists not to visit the state. And then they got so serious about keeping outsiders away, who might bring a virus, that they started paying for plane tickets so tourists would leave.
The state enforces a two week quarantine of all arriving passengers. That’s why airlines ‘double crew’ their flights to Hawaii and do not get off the plane – since they don’t really ‘enter’ Hawaii they can turn around an leave. One crew rests on the flight to Hawaii, and the other crew rests on the way home.
People whose cell phone batteries die, because their planes didn’t have seat back video or power ports and they used them for entertainment on the flight over, risk arrest because arriving passengers have to provide a phone number on their quarantine form when they land and show that the number works.
Now the State of Hawaii – with fewer than 700 confirmed cases and just 16 deaths – is making its success containing coronavirus part of a new tourism marketing campaign that’s in the works. Hawaii plans to market itself as “the safest place in the world.”
Before rolling this out and welcoming back tourists, the state expects to:
- Develop a plan to identify potentially infect passengers on arrival
- Outline protocols for how hotels, restaurants, rental car agencies and attractions can operate
On one hand hand they’re fearful tourists could bring the virus with them. On the other, Hawaii desperately needs tourism and is especially well-situated for a rapid recovery in tourism. Americans will likely have a desire to stay on familiar terrain, with a more familiar health care system, and ongoing travel restrictions in place for many other countries will limit their options. (It’s likely that travel restrictions on visitors to Hawaii from Asia will not be a significant constraint.)
Tourists will return, if only they can feel safe on airlines. Airline requirements that passengers wear masks are as much about marketing as limiting spread of the virus. People don’t want to buy airline tickets if they don’t feel safe. If they see other people wearing masks they feel more protected.