Summer vacation time is upon us, but many Americans are looking to stay fairly close to home this year due to all the fear-mongering that has come with the Coronavirus pandemic.
States are beginning to ease some of their restrictions on travel and gatherings, and with millions of tourism dollars lost in recent months, tourism bureaus are coming up with marketing ideas to draw in visitors while making us feel safe.
But in what may be the most unwelcoming “Aloha” of all time, Hawaii is setting visitors up with some very real isolation and seclusion.
Welcome to the hotels of Hawaii…
Such a lovely place…
Yes, Hawaii has always been a favorite destination for tourists, both foreign and domestic.
Americans love to visit because the Hawaiian islands are beautiful and exotic, and they don’t have to worry about passports and international regulations — or taking a pocket translator along.
The islands are unique enough from the rest of the states to be exciting – to feel like you’re in a paradise far away from the world – with the comfort of knowing you’re still in your home country.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of tourists a day have been flocking to Hawaii to get away from the madness of the mainland.
That sounds like a lot, but the tourism-dependent islands have certainly been affected by the panic-induced postponement of travel that has left many destinations feeling the pressure.
In April, tourism dropped by 99 percent, and the Hawaiian Tourism Authority’s budget has been cut by over 40 percent due to loss of revenue.
And although many states are re-opening and governors are “giving” us back some of our freedoms, many states still have regulations in place to stop the spread of the virus and prevent new outbreaks.
Hawaii is no exception… except, they are. They have perhaps the most ludicrous restriction in place for travelers and tourists.
A majority of hotels on the Hawaiian islands have agreed with the Hawaiian Tourism Authority (HTA) to take part in a special kind of quarantine plan for visitors.
Lock ‘em up for 14 days.
Hotels all over the Hawaiian islands have adopted a “one-time entry” key card program. An HTA report sent to the Senate Committee on COVID-19 reports that more than 60 percent of hotels in the state are jumping on the bandwagon.
Guests will be given the key card to their room, and then they’ll stay there for two weeks.
Leave the room to do some shopping? Run out into the hallway in your boxers to grab the newspaper? Simply space out and forget you’re a prisoner so you try to go explore for the day?
Then you’re locked out… permanently.
No guest receives a second key in case of lockouts. And worse, if you do dare to go to the front desk — say, in your boxers making some excuse about just trying to get the newspaper — you’ll be reported to law enforcement.
Breaking the rules can lead to a $5,000 fine and up to a year in a real prison.
You read that right.
But wait… there’s more.
When you arrive in Hawaii, you’ll have to subject yourself to a medical screening and sign a form saying you’re aware that you’ll be imprisoned for two weeks.
Local law enforcement are even purposely on the hunt for any hotel escapees. “Halt. You, there… do you have your papers? Why are you in just your boxers?”
You may be thinking, “Eh, I can live with this for two weeks, and then I can go island hopping for a couple of months after I do my time.”
Uh, nope. Visitors must once again enter their two-week, one-key imprisonment in the hotel of their choosing for every single one of the Hawaiian islands they decide to visit.
Hawaii to Oahu? Two weeks on your sentence. Oahu to Maui? Another two weeks.
“This could be Heaven or this could be Hell”…
Depending on your perspective, being trapped in a hotel room on one of the Hawaiian islands could be tempting – or it could be torture.
For example, if you’ve been a parent for nearly 30 years with a little one still at home, who has not read a romance novel in decades, and cannot enjoy a glass of wine without a toddler or a dog knocking it all over the floor, then you may welcome the isolation.
But for most of us (well, you – see above), the idea of being forcibly imprisoned in one room for two weeks (especially if you’re with your spouse of several decades) would be enough to make you go mad.
No matter how beautiful the view or how much room service you order – at exorbitant prices – being trapped is still being trapped.
And as much as I may joke that I’d like a few days to myself enjoying room service, I would never agree to this.
Now, I don’t know about you, but the longest vacation I’ve ever taken is a week. So unless you’re transferring to Hawaii for work, moving there permanently, or taking a six-month sabbatical, who has two weeks of their life to give up being stuck in a hotel room?
And then there’s the little matter of the U.S. Constitution, which many elected officials seem to think is subject to interpretation.
Translating a section of Article One from some Latin and a whole bunch of legal-ese I don’t understand, the basic premise is this: False imprisonment goes against our rights as U.S. citizens, and a claim of false imprisonment may be made “upon wrongful governmental detention.”
Of course, elected officials like to see the word “but” in there, saying they’re allowed to imprison their citizens “in cases where the public safety may require it.”
So, in their warped little minds, they’re keeping us safe by keeping us prisoner.
“We are all just prisoners here of our own device”…
I get that no one wants their state overrun with outbreaks of COVID-19 cases, and I also get that if you’re traveling to the Hawaiian islands, you are probably willingly accepting the two-week quarantine.
But unless you’re moving there, you’re giving up an awful lot to visit right now. It had better be one great vacation.
For now, visitors — and locals traveling between islands — are under this mandate until the end of June.
The hotels taking part in this “initiative” are downplaying the imprisonment thing, instead, marketing the quarantine as a chance to enjoy tropical balcony views and superior room service items.
So what happens if you don’t have a room with a view? Staring at the same four walls covered in paint-by-number canvases of Hibiscus flowers may make you a little crazy after a while.
If that’s your thing, and you’ve got a whole lot of vacation time coming, by all means, have a great trip to Hawaii.
Enjoy the mini-bar and put on some Eagles tunes – you’re going to need it.
But if the idea of state officials keeping you locked up for two weeks because they don’t trust you to be a responsible adult during a health crisis raises your hackles, you may just want to hold off and stay on the mainland this summer.
“Relax, said the night man. We are programmed to receive. You can check out any time you like…but you can never leave.”