Hawaii tourism

Staffing, pandemic restrictions affecting services in Hawaii’s tourism industry

HONOLULU (KHON2) – Many did not expect tourism to pick up as quickly as it did.

Businesses face the challenge of staffing and balancing the restrictions still in place.

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Some visitors have noticed shifts in service at restaurants and hotels — industries that are still looking to hire.

“We’ve been to several places that only had half the tables full of people still waiting in line, so obviously they just don’t have enough staff to keep up with everyone,” said Tim Gentry of Oklahoma.

“Room service is every four days so we noticed that, but anytime we needed something we were able to communicate it to reception and someone helped us out,” Jena said, who comes from California.

Tiki’s Bar and Grill says wait times are longer, not just because of staff, but also because of capacity issues.

“We have a six foot distance going on. We can’t serve the number of guests we get,” said Michael Miller, operations manager and partner at Tiki’s Grill and Bar.

The Hawaii Chamber of Commerce says there are several reasons for the labor shortage.

“From personal security to those who are still on federal unemployment insurance plus, child care,” said President and CEO Sherry Menor-McNamara. “Also, we had an influx of visitors to Hawaii and I think that exceeded the time companies were able to prepare for workers to return to the workplace.”

Businesses are doing what they can and have had to get creative to handle the influx of visitors.

“One of the changes we had to make was to increase our hospitality team’s salary. It was one of the hardest positions to hire. And so, it’s increased. Some of the salaries of the cooks have increased,” Miller said.

“You have everything from management, to setting up the tables, to tearing down. Also, doing some of the work that you would have in place is all your strengths work. So it varies from hotel to hotel,” said Mufi Hannemann of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association. “I will say this, we would rather live with the issues that we are feeling now, in terms of opening, rather than being closed and wondering when we are going to open.

Many visitors are understanding, for the most part.

“There are so many wonderful, beautiful things you can do in Hawaii. Hawaii speaks for itself, so the fact that you had to wait longer in a restaurant would not affect my recommendation to visit Hawaii at all,” Jena said.