Hawaii has been ahead of the curve on coronavirus matters. It was one of the first U.S. states to institute a quarantine, and it's the state that has been most proactive about enforcing it—some 200 scofflaws have been arrested so far.
Now the state may be experimenting with a new and highly logical form of a travel "bubble."
The idea was discussed at the Hawaii County Council meeting, where Managing Director Roy Takemoto put forward a plan to allow vacationers to spend their mandated quarantine on the premises of a comfortable resort. "[Out-of-state visitors] would be allowed to stay at selected resorts and the resorts would control where the visitors would be allowed to range,” he said.
Though the details are vague, guests would be required to remain on the property of their chosen oceanfront resort (such as on Maui, pictured above), but while there they would be able to go down to the beach, and perhaps swim in the pool, and even patronize the hotel's restaurants, bars, and shops. So though vacationers would be confined to just one resort, they'd still be able to have a relatively normal, beach-centric stay.
For this idea to work, guests would have to agree to this sort of pseudo-confinement. And they might still have to take a Covid-19 test no more than 72 hours before arriving in the islands—that's the rule for visits starting September 1.
There might also have to be a technical component. One way your location could be enforced would be to outfit you with a device or app that is constantly tracked by GPS and alerts authorities if you stray off property—a practice enabled by what's called "geofencing."
But this type of arrangement might not assuage all concerns. Some locals fear that poor testing practices in the United States could result in quarantine hotels filling with positive cases.
“Hot spots are unable to test their citizens and get results in three days," said Puna Councilman Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder at the same meeting. "That worries me. [Tourists] would be jumping into a plane full of people and not get their test results until they’re three days into their vacation."
If Hawaii can pull off this type of "soft quarantine," it could be a model for other resort destinations struggling with ways to remain open to visitors without endangering residents.
The idea is a logical one, though it's an open question how staff who interact with guests can stop from spreading the virus outside resort areas.
Update: Travel Weekly, an insider industry publication reported on August 17 that the Kohala Coast Resort Association on Kauai is also considering a geofencing solution to allow guests to return to local resorts. Visitors would be expected to download an app onto their phones, and keep those phones with them at all times so that resorts could monitor their movements.
Should Hawaii be able to crack this nut, other resort destinations could follow the state's lead, which would be important not only for travelers but also for the world's economy. One out of every 11 jobs is in the travel industry, and if big resorts could be put to work as quarantine centers, it would help a lot of people stay employed.