HONOLULU (KHON2) — During the Delta surge this summer, Gov. David Ige told visitors not to come to Hawaii until October, and the tourism industry took a hit.
“Restaurants have reported seeing a 50% to 60% loss. Attractions are seeing $30 million in reservation cancellations across the board,” explained Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association.
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Hannemann said hotel occupancy over the summer was 80% to 90%, and now it’s down to 40% to 50%.
“So that means workers’ hours have been shortened, people have been furloughed, and that’s not a good trend,” he continued.
UHERO’s Carl Bonham said it was important to start learning to live with the virus. He said jobs were down 14% from pre-pandemic levels, and while federal revenues were keeping families afloat, help is now gone.
“The crisis for a lot of these households is really only the beginning or it’s about to begin because the transfer payments are disappearing,” he told a House hearing on Monday.
Experts and leaders hope that reduced restrictions and events like the Honolulu Marathon will bring more people to the state and get people back to work.
House Speaker Scott Saiki said the state is halfway through the month and people need to start booking their trips and knowing what to expect if they want to come to Hawaii for the holidays.
“We don’t want unvaccinated travelers, we want vaccinated travelers to Hawaii, but the governor needs to speak out clearly and quickly at this point,” Saiki said.
Hannemann said it takes time to get people back to work, and visitors planning their trips should plan their vacations around things like rental cars that will be in short supply again this holiday season.
Unlike this summer, other countries may reopen, and that will bring competition to Hawaii.
“More and more places are opening up, so that’s what confuses a lot of responsible travelers there because they’re like, ‘Wow, why can I go to California to go to New York? They don’t have as many restrictions, and why is Hawaii still holding people back? ” Hanneman said.
He added that the state also wants to start marketing a more respectful and responsible traveler.
“Most importantly, they will know that we value the person who is vaccinated to come here, and I think that’s sort of the case around the world,” he continued.
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Over the summer, the state saw about 35,000 daily arrivals. According to data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, at the end of December 2019, there were approximately 40,000 arrivals per day.