In March, Governor David Ige had issued a statewide lockdown order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each and every person was required to stay at home, avoiding physical contact with friends and loved ones to protect the community. Throughout these times, the daily coronavirus case rates were going up and down, up to 355 cases on one day. Recently, the number of daily coronavirus cases went down to a safer amount, and as a result, Ige decided to open Hawai’i back up. This was to drive the economy; a large part of the state relies on tourism to generate income, and with the threat of coronavirus lessened, new conflicts started to come forward.
When Hawaii reopened its borders for tourism, in a matter of 20 days, more than 100,000 people rushed in from mainland states. Local businesses have been excited to reopen their doors, and Hawaii as a whole has been preparing to stimulate its economy. With tourist revenue, workers across the islands would be able to pay for their rent, food supplies, and utilities.
Some locals, including Sarah Iha, a junior at Kaiser, and her parents, don’t mind the incoming tourists as long as they take precautions. “I think it’s fine, but they need to keep safe by social distancing, avoiding gatherings, and wearing a mask,” she said. They in fact view the reopening as a net benefit. “Opening up tourism would allow many local residents to get back to work and have our economy slowly open back up again.”
On the other hand, many other locals strongly objected to the returning tourists, and feared that they would carry new coronavirus cases. Sela Park, a senior at Kaiser, understands that tourists are important to the economy, but feels they should wait until a vaccine is developed to ensure everyone’s safety. “Hawaii has a huge elderly population, so I don’t feel like their lives should be put at risk,” she said. “These tourists can have their vacation[s]…next year.” Parkalso believes that the economic benefit of tourists is overstated. “When tourists come, their money mainly goes to the bigger businesses and larger corporations just because they’re in that district. They mainly stay in Waikiki, so they don’t spend it on small businesses that actually need it.”
Contributed by Ashley Tsutsumi and Lienne Tung