Having dodged Hurricane Douglas, Hawaii is back to the drawing board once again, trying to figure out a way to spark tourism and infuse some life into its struggling economy.
Many had hopes that the State’s mandatory 14-day quarantine would be lifted August 1st, reopening the doors to visitors and resuming some sense of normalcy. But the quarantine was recently pushed back, at least another month, to September 1st.
That leaves many hotels and tourism businesses in limbo once again, and a new idea has surfaced: If visitors have to quarantine, why not do it at a resort, and frame the trip as such? According to West Hawaii Today, that’s what resorts on Maui, Big Island, and Kauai are contemplating.
“[It’s] another idea we’ve been tossing out there,” Hawaii County Managing Director Roy Takemoto said. “They would be allowed to stay at selected resorts and the resorts would control where the visitors would be allowed to range.”
Here are some details about the new idea:
It’s Mostly About Marketing
Up until now, visitors arriving in the islands had to quarantine in their hotel room by law for 14 days. So, the only thing new here is that it expands a visitor’s range a bit: Instead of having to stay within their hotel room, they can now roam the property of the hotel as well.
But what the discussion of this suggests is that the State, and perhaps the resorts individually, would begin to market the quarantine concept as a vacation package of sorts, one that’s worthy of your time and resources, a “get away from it all” kind of pitch.
Visitors Would Be Quarantined by a ‘Geofence’ at ‘Select Resorts’
If implemented, the program would allow “select resorts” to operate a “resort bubble” and track the movements of their guests via a “geofencing” system, which would presumably sound alarm if anyone ventured off property. There are no details about how resorts would be fairly (or unfairly) “selected,” or how tracking would take place, but guests would have to agree to be tracked in order to book a stay.
Complications Won’t Go Away
This idea would still run into the same complications every other idea has had: With testing results taking up to a week and many cases of the virus asymptomatic, there is no way to guarantee safety within the resort bubble. With more employees coming back to work, they too could bring the virus with them. One positive test could be detrimental to the experiment - what then, would you do with the other guests?
And, of course, there will always be those who refuse to abide by the rules.
Would Guests Have to Stay a Full Two Weeks?
Another major unanswered question is whether guests would have to commit to a full 14-day stay, or whether they simply have to remain quarantined at the resort for their specific length of stay.
If they can stay for less than two weeks (the mandatory quarantine time), would they have to go directly to the airport upon checkout, or would they be allowed to move on and quarantine elsewhere for the remainder of the 14 days? How would that be tracked?
According to the tourism board statistics, the average length of stay in Hawaii in 2019 hovered between 9 and 10 days, so it remains to be seen just how much of a market there would be for this kind of offering.
And, obviously, there are still many unanswered questions, so, in reality, we’re probably not close to any big decisions here.
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Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.