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State lacks testing options for Canadians

Maui sees the most visitors from Canada of any island

While Maui tends to see more Canadian visitors than any other island, the state’s pre-travel testing program lacks options for Canadian visitors to be tested in their country before flying to Hawaii.

The state launched its pre-travel testing program last week, offering travelers the option to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine if they could get a negative COVID-19 test from a trusted partner prior to their departure. However, the state only accepts test results from trusted testing partners within the U.S.

Melanee Henderson, who has a trip planned from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Maui from Dec. 9 to Jan. 2, said she was concerned that in all the talks over trusted partners for COVID-19 testing in the U.S., “the Maui government has said nothing about (trusted) providers from Canada.” Lots of Canadians travel to Maui every year, she pointed out.

Both Maui County and state officials confirmed this week that Canadian tourists’ only option right now is to quarantine for 14 days. Another option is to make a pit stop on the U.S. Mainland where there are locations available to get a pre-travel test; however, many trans-Pacific travelers, including returning Maui residents, have said that tracking down trusted partners is difficult and complicated.

Henderson said she will not be traveling if three-quarters of “my winter holiday” is spent in quarantine, and knows a few other travelers whose trips are facing the same complications.

Jodi Leong, a spokesperson for Gov. David Ige, said “discussions are underway” to add pre-travel trusted testing partners in Canada, though the state does not yet have a timeline.

The state Department of Health is currently in discussions with medical institutions in Japan to secure a list of trusted testing partners that would allow international travelers from Japan to bypass the 14-day quarantine upon their arrival in Hawaii. The DOH has already approved the COVID-19 nucleic acid amplification test with Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

Japanese visitors make up the second-largest market on Oahu, with nearly 1.5 million in 2019, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s annual visitor report. By contrast, they comprise the smallest market on Maui, which saw 46,684 Japanese visitors last year.

Prior to the pandemic, visitors to Hawaii from all destinations spent a total of $17.84 billion in 2019, an increase of 1.1 percent over 2018.

The U.S. West was Hawaii’s largest market last year, spending $6.95 billion on expenses, such as shopping, lodging, interisland airfare, food and car rentals. The second-largest market was the U.S. East, which spent $4.68 billion, followed by Japanese visitors at $2.25 billion and Canadian visitors at $1.08 billion.

Maui saw the most Canadian visitors in the state last year at 276,825, followed by Oahu with 227,491.

From January to August, Maui County had 71,805 visitors from Canada, most of them prior to the pandemic, according to tourism authority data. In August, only 100 visitors statewide arrived from Canada compared to 28,672 visitors in the same month a year ago. Visitor spending data was not available.

According to the tourism authority, a slowdown in the Canadian economy — about 3 million Canadians lost their jobs at its peak — and a weakened Canadian dollar amid the pandemic have “impacted the booking pace for the Hawaiian Islands.”

A small increase in activity is expected in the coming months as people become more comfortable with travel procedures and confident with consumer spending.

For a list of the trusted pre-travel test providers, visit hawaiicovid19.com/travel-partners/. For specific questions about travel, visit the governor’s website at governor.hawaii.gov/contact-us/contact-the-governor/.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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