With an economy dependent on tourism, Hawaii tries to encourage visitors
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Hawaii has the highest unemployment rate in the country. The state’s tourism-heavy economy took a major hit from the reduction in travel because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But now, Hawaii is trying to lure visitors back by allowing travelers who test negative for COVID-19 to skip a mandatory quarantine.
Since mid-October, people have started arriving in greater numbers again at Honolulu’s airport.
People like Nikki and Jeris Rue from Omaha, Nebraska. “We actually ended up taking two tests because we wanted to make sure that we got the results back. They both came back in 48 hours,” said Nikki Rue.
Officials are hoping visitors like the Rues will change Hawaii’s economic fortunes.
The state depends on its nearly $18 billion tourism industry, that was severely depressed at the start of the pandemic.
On the first day of the new system around 8,000 people arrived in Hawaii — a substantial increase from recent months, but still less than one-third of pre-pandemic levels.
Major players in Hawaii’s tourism industry have modest expectations for now.
“I think there will be a segment of the population that is ready to go. There will be a segment of the population that won’t travel for some time,” said Avi Mannis, senior vice president of marketing for Hawaiian Airlines.
Hawaiian and several other airlines are connecting passengers with test providers to help visitors comply with the new rules.
Passengers, or their health insurers, have to pay for the test, which can cost more than $200.
Hawaii is moving to further expand the travel testing program. Governor David Ige recently announced the state had reached an agreement with the Government of Japan to include its citizens in the new plan.
“Please feel free to safely visit our islands. We are ready and delighted to welcome you back,” he said in his announcement.
Japan is Hawaii’s most important tourism market after the mainland U.S. – 1.5 million Japanese citizens visited the state in 2019.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?
As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.
Give me a snapshot of the labor market in the U.S.
U.S. job openings in February increased more than expected, according to the Labor Department. Also, the economy added over 900,000 jobs in March. For all of the good jobs news recently, there are still nearly 10 million people who are out of work, and more than 4 million of them have been unemployed for six months or longer. “So we still have a very long way to go until we get a full recovery,” said Elise Gould with the Economic Policy Institute. She said the industries that have the furthest to go are the ones you’d expect: “leisure and hospitality, accommodations, food services, restaurants” and the public sector, especially in education.
What do I need to know about tax season this year?
Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.
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