Even with restrictions lifted for businesses to open, economic experts say recovery remains painfully slow. Opening tourism is expected to provide a boost, but even that will take some time to rebound.
Most of the restaurants were allowed to open their dining rooms ten days ago. And statistics show that a strong majority of diners are still not ready sit down at their favorite places to eat.
Economist Carl Bonham told the House Select Committee on COVID-19 that so far, restaurants are only doing about 10% of their bookings since dining rooms reopened.
“Obviously restaurants can’t operate at 10% or 20% capacity. Even at 50% capacity, many restaurants will struggle and same thing goes for retailer establishments. And there’s clearly risk down the road,” said Bonham.
Risk of more restaurants shutting down, like we’ve seen in the past week. Tom Jones, the chairman of the Hawaii Restaurant Association and owner of four restaurants, says takeout business has helped. But he says customers are still worried about getting the virus and are also cutting back on their spending.
“People just won’t have the money to spend on restaurants and on dining out as they would have in the past. So it’s gonna be a long road back,” said Jones.
Tourism officials have the same concerns. Their survey of mainland travelers shows that 82% of them are worried about the economy and 67% are worried about getting the virus. The survey also shows that younger travelers are more likely to take a trip, which is bad news for Hawaii.
“When you think about our demographic probably skewing a little older than the millennials that are more interested in travel, that suggests that it’s a going to be a long, slow road back when we do start accepting visitors again.”
State officials predict the total visitor count at 3.4 million at the end of this year, and 6.4 million next year. That’s still far short of the 10.4 million last year.
Committee members also heard more bad news for local renters. Forty-five-thousand renters are expected to still be out of work by the end of July, when financial benefits expire. Nearly half of them are at serious risk of losing their housing.