Hawaii Considers Geofencing for Visitors to Boost Tourism

by Miles Jackson

Hawaii Considers Geofencing for Tourists

It’s no secret that Hawaii’s economy has suffered greatly under the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, Governor David Ige has taken a strict policy stance against the virus. Ige quickly mandated quarantines for tourists coming to the islands. He has extended that order several times. With rising cases and dwindling dollars, it’s reported that Hawaii is considering geofencing for visitors to boost tourism.

Geofence the Neighbor Islands with a Resort Bubble

On the neighbor islands of Maui, Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii it is being proposed that a “resort bubble” be implemented. A geofence would track hotel guest movements through the use of an app installed on their smartphones. This geofence would restrict visitors to their hotel property. In this case it would also allow them more freedom of movement than the current mandatory (stay in room) 14-day quarantine for all transpacific arriving visitors.

Gov. David Ige signed a proclamation on August 20th, giving the decision-making power over Geofencing or (resort bubbles) to the individual counties of Hawaii. The GOvernor’s proclamation calls it Enhanced Movement Quarantine (EMQ.)

What is Geofencing?

Example Hawaii Considering Geofencing for Tourists

Geofencing Would Let Hotel Guests Know Their ‘Safe’ Boundaries

Geofencing is a location-based application service that identifies a specific local area where users are located. It is often used by businesses for local targeted marketing. For example, perhaps you are walking near a store in a mall and the store uses geofencing software to identify you are close and then proceeds to send an advertisement as a pop-up notification to your phone. Smartphone users are identified who enter a pre-defined location or geographic area.

For Hawaii’s geofencing proposal, each hotel property would define their geographical geofence area for their guests. The hotel sets boundaries for hotel guests. In practical use, as with this proposal for Hawaii, users and law enforcement would get an alert if the person goes beyond the pre-determined boundaries set. In essence, anything outside of the hotel property (in this example) would become “No-Go” Zones.

How Geofencing Could Enhance Tourism

If the pre-arrival COVID-19 testing program gets put into place, then tourists can avoid two of the worst conditions in Hawaii right now, mandatory quarantine and lack of movement.

With a negative COVID-19 PCR test and geofencing, tourists can go straight to their resort and begin enjoying the amenities of the property. As it stands right now, guests who venture beyond their rooms face arrest, fines and further quarantine. Geofencing expands permitted movement to the property, plus it provides alerts to the guests if they enter a restricted area. At the same time, law enforcement has some assurance that visitors are adhering to the restrictions. As such, geofencing requires very little additional manpower or expenses. That allows Hawaii to again welcome visitors to the islands without further draining resources from its strained budget.

No Geofencing for Oahu

Honolulu, home of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach, is the most popular destination for travelers visiting Hawaii. However, geofencing is not being proposed for that island (Oahu.) Currently, the plan is for the neighbor islands of Maui, Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii. These geofence areas known as “resort bubbles” have picked up support from the mayors of these islands. The idea first came from Kauai mayor Derek Kawakami. He sought ideas and suggestions from the public on how to restore tourism without compromising the public health.

For Now, Hawaii Has a Strict Quarantine Policy

Governor Ige continues to keep a strict policy of quarantine since mid-March. And it’s not just tourism from the other 49 states of the USA or international tourists. There is a standing order to quarantine for persons traveling between the Hawaiian islands of Kauai, Hawaii, Maui, and Kalawao. That order does not include inter-island travelers arriving on Oahu, where Honolulu is located.

Safe Travels Hawai’i

UPDATE: Hawaii is adding another requirement for visitors to the islands. It is now mandatory that all visitors to the Aloha State download and us an app, called Safe Travels Hawai’i. This takes the place of paper forms which were previously required.

In spite of that advice to get outside, Hawaii continues to order the closing of beaches and parks. This is in response to careless acts in many public areas, such as the Waimea Bay Rock Jump Day

Waimea Bay Rock Jump Day

(Image: KITV)

Hawaii plans to implement a pre-testing program that would allow out-of-state visitors to skip the state’s quarantine if they arrive with a negative COVID-19 test.

Out-of-state travelers arriving in Hawaii must get a PCR test prior to arrival from any testing location approved by the Hawai‘i State Department of Health. Evidence of a negative test result must be provided upon arrival in Hawai‘i. Without this, passengers arriving from out-of-state will be subject to the 14-day quarantine. No testing will be provided upon arrival at the airport.

Governor Ige

Although this program originally was to go into effect on August 1, it is delayed until September 1.

In a recent press conference, Governor Ige regretfully acknowledged “If things do not get better we will have no choice but to look at more restrictions” For Hawaii, this could mean tourists might not even get the opportunity to visit the islands as the pre-arrival COVID-19 testing program could be delayed further.

Hawaii Remains a Top Destination

Hawaii is one of the top destinations globally for travelers. It greets more than 10 million visitors annually and estimates the tourist industry to bring in more than $18 Billion. Furthermore, the Hawaii Tourism Authority estimates than more than 220,000 Hawaii residents are directly employed in the travel industry in the islands. That makes the impact of the Coronavirus the most devastating of all the 50 states in the US. It’s clear why Hawaii is considering geofencing as a means to reopen tourism. It means jobs and tax revenue.

As an indication of its popularity, Hawaii is the only destination in the United States mentioned for consideration for Japan’s resumption of international travel. All other destinations are in Asian countries along the Pacific Rim. This also relates to the aggressive steps Hawaii has taken to contain the pandemic in the islands.

If you are wondering what the rest of the world looks like for reopenings, check out these posts:

Juicy Miles travel professionals can help you book award travel using your points or miles. They can also craft a personally designed Mileage Run for you around the program of your choice. With lots of potential destinations this year, resort deals may be the best offered in a decade.

The Upshot

Geofencing and pre-testing could be a great idea to help Hawaii reopen its travel industry. Clearly, those lost tourism dollars are desperately needed. It’s no surprise that Hawaii is looking for solutions. Geofencing sounds promising, and might be of use to many impacted tourist destinations.

Does Hawaii considering geofencing make you want to visit the islands? Do you think geofencing is a good idea for heavily tourist-dependent destination economies?

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


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Jason Say August 18, 2020 - 11:42 am

Yeah, our Maui mayor mentioned that and the public went ballistic on FB against it. So much he had to call a special new conference on Sunday to address the rumors and say it was just a thought. Even though I support it here on Maui so some of us can get back to work, I don’t think the rest of the public would allow it. Shame they can’t take what they dish out. Meaning, when we complain about now being able to work they say “oh it’s not forever, just for now” but when we say the same thing about this they’re like NO! I want to use all the beaches (even though those mentioned are the ones NOT frequented by locals very much…they’re still mostly dead now during all this).

Keith S. August 18, 2020 - 12:56 pm

Kalawao? Did Molokai change its name, or are they only applying it to people visiting that remote area of the island?

Miles Jackson August 18, 2020 - 6:12 pm

Molokai has not changed its name. Kalawao is specifically cited in the governor’s order; provided by the government, not myself.
Geofencing is an interesting idea. We’ll have to see if this opens doors (literally) for Hawaii’s tourists and the economy.
Thanks for reading.

Hawaii Reopening Delayed until October - economiles August 18, 2020 - 8:22 pm

[…] state is still contemplating with reopening ideas such as hotel bubble to geofence guests, it appears September 1 was simply too soon to relax any restrictions, especially with COVID-19 […]

Viv Ian August 18, 2020 - 8:30 pm

The Governor is out of his mind and has no idea what he is doing. You can’t control the virus and why on earth would people take a new vaccine for something that has a 99.98% survival rate. Lockdowns don’t work. The overwhelming majority of those dying are in the age range of people who would normally die in the same period. It’s all BS. He’s just another DEM Governor destroying his state.


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