HONOLULU (KHON2) — Many in the tourism industry are hoping for a busy holiday season as COVID cases continue on a downward trend. Hotel operators said the more bookings that come in, the more employees they will be able to bring back to work.

Hotel properties are bouncing back from a very slow fall season that was in part affected by the Gov. David Ige’s announcement for non-essential travel to pause.

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The Prince Waikiki General Manager Joshua Hargrove said they are starting to see more confidence from people who are booking travel towards the end of the year festivities.

“Occupancy is starting to get back. We’re starting to get bookings,” Hargrove said. “We’re starting to get our staff back to work, so it’s looking positive. We’re on the upswing.”

Hargrove said bookings plummeted in September to below half occupancy, compared to a busy summer when they were almost fully operating with the exception of large events at the property’s ballrooms.

The staffing levels at the hotel are directly connected to occupancy.

“We want to give hours wherever we can, but if there are not rooms that are occupied, then we can’t hire housekeepers to clean those rooms,” Hargrove said. “The same thing if the restrictions come out and say we are not allowed to have indoor events more than 10. Well, there are no weddings that we’re doing that are going to be 10 or less.”

The Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association President and CEO Mufi Hannemann said hotel properties are taking steps to notify labor unions and sharing meeting notices in anticipation of holiday travel.

Hannemann said more hotels will staff up once there is a clear message from the governor to welcome back safe tourism.

“We would like that announcement to say that we welcome travelers back to Hawaii especially those who are vaccinated,” Hannemann said. “If you come here and you’re not vaccinated, well, there’s steps and things that you are going to have to do: Take a 72-hour pre-COVID test; you may perhaps have to quarantine. All of those things should not relax.”

If restrictions continue to loosen and larger indoor events are once again allowed, Hargrove said they are likely to reach full staffing levels for the first time since the pandemic.

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“We need to be able to use our ballrooms and all of our meeting spaces that are sitting empty,” Hargrove said. “So to be able to have restrictions but still allow us to be able to safely do these events would be my wish list item.”