Travel is often revered as an escape, an adventure, a desired component of a rich and fulfilling life. People of all stripes “love to travel,” but few actually enjoy the process of traveling.
The planning, the long waits, the cramped accommodations, the inevitable hiccups: None of that was pleasant to negotiate pre-pandemic, even for the most avid of globetrotters. Since COVID-19 took hold, Hawai‘i tourism officials and industry stakeholders have agonized over the impact government restrictions and personal hang-ups may have on the state’s economic recovery in light of the new strain (no pun intended) that coronavirus has hung around travel’s proverbial neck.
However, a new study has shown those who visited Hawai‘i during the teeth of the pandemic have still overwhelmingly enjoyed the experience despite quarantines and the requirements to skirt them, along with the mental anguish associated with increased risk of exposure to COVID-19.
The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA) released the results of the special study, which surveyed visitors from the US mainland who visited the state during the first two weeks of December 2020.
The intent was to gauge their overall trip satisfaction, and more specifically their experience with Hawai‘i’s Safe Travels program, which requires a pre-travel test from a specific list of partners within 72 hours of departure and negative test results returned and digitally uploaded before boarding the last leg of the journey.
Despite challenges for some in the pre-testing process, the vast majority of visitors (85%) rated their trip “Excellent.” A total of 94% said their trip either exceeded or met their expectations.
“We come here every year, and we always love it,” said Ken Davis. “There is no question that getting here was harder this time, a lot more hoops to jump through, a little more discomfort with the mask requirements and all the testing. But once we arrived, we forgot about all that pretty quick.”
“It was inconvenient,” he added, “but it was worth it.”
Nearly every visitor surveyed was aware of the state’s pre-travel testing protocols prior to arrival, and 79% of them said the pre-travel testing went smoothly. Among those who indicated they experienced issues with the pre-testing process, almost half (46%) said they felt the 72-hour window for testing was unreasonable, 37% encountered difficulty finding a Trusted Testing Partner, and 15% said their test results did not arrive in time.
“That was the biggest source of stress,” Davis said, “worrying about whether the test results would return in time for us to be able to skip quarantine.”
Nearly all of the respondents were aware prior to arriving in the islands of the local government mandates in place to prevent the spread of the virus, as well limited availability or capacity of visitor amenities.
The survey also asked questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, Hawai‘i’s rate of COVID-19 infections as a factor in selecting the destination as a place to visit, and likelihood to return to the islands.
HTA’s Tourism Research Division partnered with Anthology Research to conduct the survey, as part of the contract for the Visitor Satisfaction and Activity Study. The online survey was conducted between Dec. 21, 2020 and Jan. 4, 2021. The findings were presented during HTA’s Board of Directors meeting on Jan. 28.
The complete Visitor COVID-19 Study is available on HTA’s website.