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Kauai expects slow economic recovery after tourism resumes

HONOLULU (AP) — The island of Kauai plans to reopen to tourists after a halt forced by the coronavirus, but the economic recovery in the vital tourism industry could be slow.

Kauai had opted out of the state program that allows trans-Pacific visitors if they produce a negative test before arrival, and the island had required all travelers to undergo a 10-day quarantine.

But Kauai plans to begin its own entry program Tuesday. Travelers can avoid quarantine if they go to another Hawaii island with the pre-arrival testing program and wait at least three days before coming to Kauai.

A second option would enable travelers to quarantine for three days instead of 10.

Kauai County said travelers could be released from quarantine if they’re tested before arrival, quarantine for three days at a “resort bubble” property and then get a second test that comes back negative.

There are six resorts officially labeled Enhanced Movement Quarantine hotels, where visitors are allowed to leave their rooms if they remain on the property.

“To the extent that they can experience the rest of the island after three days, they’ll be more likely to come,” said Richard Albrecht, president of The Club at Kukuiula, one of the bubble properties.

Participants will be required to wear tracking bracelets.

“And if they’re off property, that shows that they’re red. And then we get on the phone, we call and try and figure out where they are,” Albrecht said.

Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association CEO Mufi Hannemann said Kauai’s hotel industry is not anticipating enough business for shuttered hotels like the Grand Hyatt or the Sheraton Kauai to immediately reopen.

“I continue to hear from Kauai’s small-business community that the changes aren’t working and that these latest tweaks won’t make enough difference,” Hannemann said.

Keith Vieira, principal of KV & Associates, Hospitality Consulting LLC, said Hawaii tourism is in a “booking malaise” that is likely to continue until travel rules are clarified.

“The Kauai situation doesn’t just harm Kauai, it harms tourism across the state. People don’t understand the geography, and they worry that the rules are going to keep changing,” Vieira said.