Hawaii gets tourism surge as coronavirus rules loosen up

FILE - A man sits on a nearly empty Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. Tourists are traveling to Hawaii in larger numbers than officials anticipated, and many are wandering around Waikiki without masks, despite a statewide mandate to wear them in public. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, file)
FILE - A man sits on a nearly empty Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. Tourists are traveling to Hawaii in larger numbers than officials anticipated, and many are wandering around Waikiki without masks, despite a statewide mandate to wear them in public. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, file) (AP)

HONOLULU – Tourists are traveling to Hawaii in larger numbers than officials anticipated, and many are wandering around Waikiki without masks, despite a statewide mandate to wear them in public.

Hawaii's “Safe Travels” program reported that about 28,000 people flew into and throughout the islands on Saturday, the highest number of travelers in a single day since the pandemic began, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

Before the pandemic, Hawaii had about 30,000 arrivals daily. When quarantine rules were put in place early in the pandemic, arrivals plummeted and the state's tourism-dependent economy tanked.

In October, state officials launched a pre-travel testing program that allowed visitors to sidestep quarantine rules. But travel remained sluggish until the second week in March, when spring break tourists started arriving in the islands.

Travel company Pleasant Holidays president and CEO Jack Richards told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the agency's bookings increased 30% over the last two weeks.

“We haven’t seen travel demand for Hawaii this strong for over a year,” Richards said. “I thought we would have a U-shaped recovery; it’s V-shaped. January and February were terrible, but we’ve gone from zero to 150 mph in two weeks.”

Hawaii News Now reported that officials are receiving complaints about visitors not wearing masks. With a few exceptions, people in Hawaii are still required to wear masks while in public.

“I’m a believer that if you’re outdoors, you can remove it,” said Glenn Day, a visitor from Indiana.