Hawaii Hopeful to Reopen by July

 Hawaii Hopeful to Reopen by July
© jhorrocks/iStock/Getty Images Plus Aerial shot of Hawaii's Waikiki Beach
By  Rich Thomaselli, TravelPulse

With most of Hawaii’s 242,000 unemployed workers tied to the tourism industry, the push is on to reopen the state to visitors sooner than later.

But the hotel industry wants assurances before any of that can happen, including access to personal protective equipment that will help shield them from the coronavirus, more training, and a guarantee that everyone who has been furloughed or laid off will have a job to come back to.

"Somebody could get sick and it would blow our industry,” Eric Hill, financial secretary-treasurer of the UNITE HERE Local 5 union, told Hawaii News Now. “So, everybody in the industry has to adopt high standards. Low standards for safety should not be acceptable in Hawaii. That will destroy the long-term viability of our industry.”

To make their voices heard, the union is staging a caravan on wheels through Waikiki on Wednesday.

But if Wednesday brings a third consecutive day with no new coronavirus cases statewide, the pressure to reopen Hawaii to tourism will continue to grow. Lt. Gov. Josh Green is leading that charge, saying he hopes to reopen the state’s tourism industry by July. That would include having people tested for the virus beforehand, including arriving tourists.

“By having people tested beforehand, it reduces the risk very greatly on all those good people that are going to be taking care of the tourists,” Green told Hawaii News Now.

The Lt. Gov. said the reopening would come in phases, with travelers from Japan, New Zealand and Australia allowed to visit first. Those countries have low rates of COVID-19.

“It’s more possible for us to have comprehensive negotiated agreements with a country ironically than with the mainland,” he said. "Japan is 20 percent of all our travelers but 30 percent of all our economic activity from tourism. So, in some ways, it’s the perfect place to start.”

This comes as state officials predict the economy could shrink more than 12-percent this year, with a 67-percent drop in tourism, and at a time when Gov. David Ige recently extended the 14-day quarantine on all visitors until June 30.

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