LIHU‘E — The state is expanding its pre-travel testing program with the addition of Japan, marking the first state-county tourism partnership program.
Gov. David Ige made the announcement at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport alongside management of All Nippon Airways, Hawaiian Airlines and Japan Airlines. These airlines, Ige said, will start shuttling in passengers as early as Friday, Nov. 6, with testing options from over 21 partners offered as early as Tuesday, Nov. 3.
This is an extension of the Safe Travels program currently in place for trans-Pacific travel, which allows travelers to bypass the state-mandated, 14-day quarantine by producing a negative nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) within 72 hours of arrival through a state-approved, trusted partner. These requirements, Ige said, makes Safe Travels the most robust program in the country.
Since the state opened up for mainland travel on Oct. 15, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said 94,718 travelers have been screened, which includes 81,485 exempted with negative tests and 10,047 who went into quarantine. Of that, there’s been a 2:1 ratio of tourists to residents.
Green said one of the most-touching parts of reopening was to see families and friends reunite.
“Many of Hawai‘i’s residents trace their ancestry back to Japan,” Ige said Tuesday. “Welcoming our Japanese guests back to Hawai‘i is an important step in maintaining the close relationship between our two regions.
In March, Ige sent personal apologies to Japanese travelers who had to cancel or postpone their trips.
Hawai‘i is a top Japanese tourist destination, drawing in 1.57 million arrivals from Japan last year.
Japan travel has historically been respectful, said John De Fries, Hawai‘i Tourism Authority president and CEO.
“Historically, the Japan traveler to Hawai‘i has been mindful and sensitive to our local ways and cultural traditions,” De Fries said. “At a time when we in Hawai‘i seek to resuscitate our economy, the resumption of trans-Pacific travel from Japan is welcomed news.”
This partnership is partially made possible through Japan-Hawai‘i Legislators’ Friendship Association, created in 2013 is made up of the Japan Diet and Hawai‘i legislators, chaired by state House Speaker Scott Saiki.
“Part of the challenge,” Ige said, is that “the virus continues to rage in much of the United States.” Hawai‘i, Ige noted, has the third-lowest rate in the country.
Japanese nationals traveling abroad are still subject to a 14-day quarantine upon their return to Japan.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for Japan due to COVID-19, with concerns in Tokyo. The U.S. Department of State recommends U.S. travelers “reconsider travel” to Japan.
Information on trusted partners can be found at hawaiicovid19.com. and allhawaii.jp/covid19/.