St Thomas, Virgin Island

Hawaii Stays Closed But There’s Good News For The Virgin Islands

The stay-at-home orders have left many wanting to get out and explore the country after months of isolation, however those wishing to visit Hawaii will have to wait after it was announced all out of state visitors will have to continue to quarantine for 14 days.

The announcement has been seen as a step in the right direction for reducing the risk of coronavirus across the islands, however those that work in tourism are concerned the prolonged absence of tourists will cause the economy to continue to suffer.

In what has been seen as a lack of direction, many business leaders are getting frustrated with the way they perceive leaders are ‘handling’ the crisis. Currently the State is working on a month-by-month basis to ensure all decisions that are made are right for the island, and with the world seemingly in a permanent state of uncertainty this appears to be the way forward.

Those who are already in Hawaii have seen some good news though. Travel between the islands has been given the go ahead although there are a few requirements to adhere to. Those that chose to fly will have to allow officials to check their temperature. Currently there is new facial recognition software and thermal screening systems being installed in all airports and anyone who is found to have a temperature of higher than 100.4 degrees will be refused entry to their flight.

Another piece of good news is that those traveling between islands are now no longer required to enter a 14 day quarantine period meaning the travel industry can now start rebuilding their businesses.

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However, despite these changes to the rules officials are still discouraging leisure travel saying the main reason for the change is to allow families who are on different islands to start seeing each other again. Another reason is so they can start testing their new systems so that when international travel is allowed they know the systems work.

Governor David Y. Ige said, “Interisland [travel] allows us to test our system and make sure it is safe.”

Further requirements could be put in place once borders are lifted with the State looking at the possibility of insisting all passengers coming to the islands pass a Covid-19 test before they arrive. This comes after independent studies looked at whether this would reduce the number of cases making their way into the State.

At the moment countries around the world are looking at whether tourists should be required to be tested before they head overseas, however leaders are still weighing up the pros and cons of such a manoeuvre.

Further ideas for reopening cross-border travel are the possibilities of ‘travel bridges’ or ‘travel bubbles’ which would see ‘safe routes’ between one country and another that they believe also has low or no cases of coronavirus. This is also an idea that Hawaii is considering; particularly with destinations like New Zealand, which has recently declared they no longer have any cases.

Ige commented, “the trouble for us is the novel coronavirus is spreading around the world, and we’re at different stages within the U.S. and around the world.”

As well as Hawaii making announcements on their travel arrangements, the US Virgin Islands (USVI) have announced they have reopened for leisure visitors with USVI Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte confirming that they will be the first destination in the Caribbean to officially reopen to tourists.

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“Over the past several weeks, we have been building COVID-19 mitigation and response capacity, and preparing protocols to protect the health and safety of residents and visitors alike.” Commissioner Boschulte continued, “We did not want to rush to reopen in reaction to what other destinations are doing. Instead, we have engaged in data-driven, risk-based analysis, in conjunction with the Virgin Islands Department of Health and federal guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other stakeholders.”

Officials have also put together a collection of “Health and Safety Guidelines for the USVI Tourism Industry”, designed to help tourism companies successfully navigate their way through the coronavirus pandemic.

Talking about the guidelines Boschulte said, “We are very pleased with the across-the-board approach so that key tourism sub sectors now have specific guidelines.”

The guidelines look at ways businesses need to operate to comply with the requirements for the Virgin Islands to reopen and look at every aspect of the tourism industry, including housekeeping, bars, hotels, and even concierge operations.

The numbers of tourists wanting to head to the Virgin Islands has not wavered throughout the pandemic with the Commissioner confirming that the strict guidelines would ensure the USVI will be the first destination in the world to officially reopen to tourists.

“Throughout the pandemic, we were greatly encouraged by the outpouring of support and expressions of desire from friends around the world to travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Even though COVID-19 caused us to temporarily close our doors, our hearts remained open. We now look forward to welcoming travelers back to their home away from home.”

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