Tuesday was a happy day for Kauai vacation rental owners and small businesses. The County of Kauai announced that Mayor Kawakami had put in a request to Governor Ige which would allow Kauai to opt back into the State’s Safe Travels program in April. Kauai has been the only county not a part of Hawaii’s travel program since December 2, 2020. Governor Ige approved the Mayor’s request today, Friday, March 5, 2021.
“This emergency rule will simplify travel to Hawai‘i by including Kaua‘i in the existing Safe Travels program. The increased restrictions over the winter months helped Mayor Kawakami safely balance travel with the health and safety of residents and visitors on the Garden Island,” said Gov. David Ige.
Here’s a very small summary of the roller coaster ride which was 2020: After seven months of closure, the State opened travel with the Safe Travels program on October 15th, 2020. This allowed visitors to fly to any island from the mainland with a negative Covid test taken, from an approved lab, within 72 hours of the last leg of departure. Six weeks later, as Covid numbers started increasing on Kauai, Mayor Kawakami chose to opt out of the program, leaving Kauai the only island with no option for visitors except quarantine. This was devastating to the local business owners who had been stocking up for the Christmas season. Hotels and vacation rentals faced canceling all of their guests……again.
On January 5th, Mayor Kawakami opted back into the Safe Travels program for inter-island travel only and created a hotel “bubble” program for Kauai. This left visitors two options to come to Kauai without having to do a ten day quarantine. The first option was to test, fly to any other island for at least 72 hours, test again, and then fly to Kauai to stay and do as one pleased. Or, the other option was to test, fly to Kauai, stay at a hotel bubble for a minimum of 72 hours (where one could use the hotel’s amenities, but not leave the property), retest, and then finish the remaining vacation days at will. Kauai continues to have this travel policy.
As a result of these very restrictive policies, not many people have been coming to Kauai. Certainly guests who had planned to stay the average 5 to 10 days were not willing to jump through all the hoops. Some Timeshare owners and long term visitors considered a three day wait time worth it, and have been, pretty much, the only people arriving on Kauai since January.
With Kauai opting back into the Safe Travels program on April 5th, the hope is that more guests, who have been waiting patiently to visit, will book their flights right away and Kauai’s economy will slowly start to rebound. Now that Covid numbers are declining on the Mainland, getting test results back before departure should be doable. It still takes some organization, timing, and effort to make it all come together, but so many people are anxious to travel to the islands that these inconveniences are being tolerated. Another factor is that, as more and more people are vaccinated, they are willing to take the “risk” of traveling away from home.
If considering a trip to the Garden Island, both Gov. Ige and Mayor Kawakami urge residents and visitors to install the Aloha Safe app, which will notify users if they come into contact with someone who later tests positive for COVID-19. To download Aloha Safe, please visit alohasafealert.org.
There is talk of eventually having a Vaccine Pass. Lieutenant Governor, Josh Green, has proposed a timeline of April for Inter-island travel and May for Mainland travel, but Governor Ige has not approved it yet. He is waiting for the CDC to determine if people who have been vaccinated can still carry the disease and infect others. Stay tuned for that announcement.
On a personal note, this has been a very difficult year for me. As those of you know that have stayed at Honu Point, I am very involved with the running of our vacation rental. As each month progressed throughout 2020, instead of welcoming guests, I was having to disappoint so many. Some guests were willing to reschedule, and then reschedule again, and then again. I have one reservation that has been moved four times! Many could not reschedule and, of course, were granted a full refund. I have had just two out-of-state guests stay at Honu Point since last April. Thank you to the many guests who emailed, texted, or called with empathy and concern. I am soooooo ready to say Aloha.
As of now, I have a few weeks left to book in 2021. If you have any interest in spending some time in our 3 bedroom, luxury home on the north shore of Kauai, please take a look at our calendar. The Garden Island awaits you.
For more information about the State’s Safe Travel program, go to https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel/.
For more information about Kauai’s travel policies, go to https://www.kauai.gov/covid-19.
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