Hawaii Gov. David Ige said Tuesday that visitors will be welcomed back to Hawaii and nonessential travel can resume starting Nov. 1.
Ige made the comments during a news conference at the new international terminal at the Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport in Kona.
Ige said, "Our hospitals are doing better, and we have fewer Covid patients in them. Most importantly, our healthcare system has responded, and we have the ability to move forward with economic recovery. Because of this, it is now safe for fully vaccinated residents and visitors to resume nonessential travel to and within the State of Hawaii."
Ige tweeted that the decreasing number of new Covid cases in the islands gave the state the ability to safely welcome back fully vaccinated domestic travelers. He added that the state would have a plan in place by Nov. 8 for international visitors.
On Aug. 23, as the state was facing its highest Covid-19 case rate of the pandemic due to the spread of the delta variant and hospitals were reaching capacity in their intensive care units, Ige recommended a halt to all nonessential travel to and from the Aloha State.
The governor's announcement in August sowed confusion within the trade since his recommendation was a suggestion and not an official mandate. Nevertheless, there was a spike in hotel cancellations throughout the state and visitor numbers tailed off.
"The local tourism industry is pleased that Governor Ige signaled today that he is ready to welcome nonessential travelers back to Hawaii beginning Nov. 1," the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association (HTLA) said in a statement following the announcement.
"While we recognize that there are still details that need to be sorted out -- paying special mind to input from the county mayors and information provided by the healthcare community and the business sector -- this announcement is an important first step toward getting our economy moving again safely and judiciously."
Sean Dee, Outrigger Hospitality Group's executive vice president and chief commercial officer, said, "This is certainly good news for Outrigger and the Hawaii hospitality industry as well as the state overall. The last two months have been certainly challenging as we saw demand plummet and cancellations soar when the governor announced nonessential travel to Hawaii was discouraged.
"The timing is right to welcome visitors back to Hawaii as our case counts and positivity rates are low while vaccination rates are high, but most importantly our healthcare colleagues are indicating they are in good shape from a capacity and resource perspective."
HLTA president Mufi Hannemann said in September that the industry had seen cancellations increase and occupancy cut nearly in half in some instances.
"Some hotels have been forced to offer discounts in order to keep operating, and all of this taking place during our normal slow season," Hannemann said.