Let’s talk about Hawaii: Possible flights, pre-testing and winter forecast
Laci Goshi

Let’s talk about Hawaii: Possible flights, pre-testing and winter forecast

TORONTO — Hawaii’s decision to delay the start of its pre-travel testing program to Oct. 1 will impact more than just mandatory quarantines – it could also affect inbound flights from Canada.

The program, which was scheduled to start on Sept. 1, would allow all trans-Pacific travellers to bypass a mandatory two-week quarantine if they show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result achieved within 72 hours of arrival. Due to a recent spike in cases, however, Governor David Ige has postponed the program’s start by a month to keep Hawaii’s residents safe and help mitigate the spread of the virus.

A lot is riding on this program, namely a safe return to tourism for one of the world’s most popular Sun destinations. But according to Laci Goshi, Market Manager at the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the program is also closely intertwined with the resumption of Canadian flights.

“As of now neither WestJet nor Air Canada have confirmed a date for restarting flights to the Hawaiian Islands, but Air Canada has informed us that this will depend on the pre-arrival testing program,” she tells Travelweek. “Hawaii Tourism Authority and Hawaii Tourism Canada are working closely to see how the Hawai’i Department of Health can accept tests taken by Canadian provincial health authorities as valid for this program.”

When asked for an update on possible flights to the islands, Nino Montagnese, Managing Director of Air Canada Vacations, tells Travelweek that the situation is “very fluid,” which is why he is unable to comment at this time.

“We at Air Canada Vacations are optimistic flights to Hawaii will resume soon. I can tell you that Hawaii is a very important part of our product lineup, and that we’ve included it in our new Winter Sun brochure, which was just launched this past week,” he says.

Of course, the absence of flights from Canada is just one hurdle Hawaii is facing from north of the border. The closure of the Canada-U.S. border has been extended until at least Sept. 21, the Canadian government recently announced the extension of the 14-day mandatory quarantine to Sept. 30, and the continued lack of Covid-related travel insurance are all possible deterrents to Canadians booking travel to the islands.

But Goshi has taken the news in stride, keeping in mind the bigger picture.

“The non-essential travel advisory has affected not only Hawaii but travel in general outside of Canada, and the fact that just two travel insurance companies are offering Covid-related illnesses is also affecting travel outside of Canada,” she said. “But the Canada-U.S. border closure travel advisory is part of the Canadian government’s efforts to keep the population safe.”

Locally in Hawaii, Goshi says the government is taking the necessary precautions to keep both residents and travellers safe, which include a newly announced online health and travel application, now mandatory for all trans-Pacific travellers. Officials are also keeping a close eye on local Covid cases leading up to Oct. 1, the new start date for the pre-travel testing program.

“This program was set in place to reactivate the tourism industry on which the state’s economy depends heavily, but the reason for delaying is to keep Hawaii residents safe,” she says. “Because we don’t anticipate a huge influx in numbers on Oct. 1, the local tourism industry will be prepared and equipped to welcome visitors back to the Hawaiian Islands. Ultimately, it’s about keeping the community safe and not overwhelming the healthcare system.”

When asked whether the winter 2020/2021 season is still salvageable, Goshi says it’s hard to say, referencing second waves in other destinations that may indicate difficult times ahead. What she does know is that 535,000 Canadians visited Hawaii in 2019 and that the destination was forecasted to see an increase of 1%-2% this year. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, knowing that the global pandemic has changed everything – for everyone. The question now is, when will Hawaii fully recover?

“As winter makes its way back in, we hope to see inbound travel resume to Hawaii. The winter season is harsh in the North and we are hopeful that consumers will want to spend some time in warmer weather while experiencing the Aloha spirit,” she says. “It will take some time to see the travel industry fully recover, but we know that Hawaii is and always will be a destination that attracts visitors from all over the world for its uniqueness, natural beauty and people.”

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