John De Fries took the reins of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) one month, almost to the day, before this week’s planned launch of a pretravel program that is crucial to the state’s tourism reboot.
“It’s a vertical learning curve,” De Fries said. “Not only for me, frankly, but for the entire industry.”
The program, which would enable visitors to bypass a strict 14-day quarantine if they test negative for coronavirus within 72 hours of arrival, would be the state’s first major step toward reviving its economy. Among U.S. states, only Nevada is more dependent on tourism, but Hawaii’s isolation has become a factor, as well. Nevada’s biggest feeder market is the California drive market, but the Islands depend on long-haul flights to deliver visitors.
De Fries, the first Native Hawaiian to be named CEO of the HTA, grew up in Waikiki and was previously director of the Native Hawaiian