Hawaii tourism struggles while other destinations thrive

Coronavirus

A beachgoer walks down Waikiki Beach, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in Honolulu. A new pre-travel testing program will allow visitors who test negative for COVID-19 to come to Hawaii and avoid two weeks of mandatory quarantine goes into effect Thursday. The pandemic has caused a devastating downturn on Hawaii’s tourism-based economy and many are hoping the testing will help the economy rebound. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The trend of Coronavirus in the country is a big influence on a person’s decision to travel and the destinations they decide to visit. Restrictions in Hawaii continue to have an impact for travelers.

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Vikram Singh is a hospitality analyst in Hawaii who works with hotel properties on marketing material and setting the rate per room. He said hotel demand in Waikiki went up for Thanksgiving but expects occupancy to go down in December.

He said the last weeks of the year are usually the most lucrative for hotels, that is when rates could easily double due to high demand, but not this year.

“The second surge, people are just being a little extra careful being winter,” Singh said. “And then that directly has resulted in the rates that you’re seeing, you don’t see the at some of the bigger resorts, you don’t see the $900 to $1200 dollar a night options anymore.”  

Singh said there is too much inventory to drive-up room prices like previous years.

According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, hotel room revenues statewide fell by 88% in October, and occupancy declined to 19.7% compared to the same time last year.

Although other destinations with fewer COVID restrictions are seeing some of their best numbers.

“The properties that I work in Mexico are seeing better than last year numbers in a coronavirus year, that blows my mind,” Singh said. “They’re outperforming their 2019 states in a year of a global travel meltdown.”  

The pandemic also changed the power dynamic between hotels and guests. Most airlines and hotels are flexible with last-minute cancellations.

“We used to make a lot of money back in the day on non-cancelable rates, on non-refundable rates where we offer a really good deal, but you couldn’t get your money back, you had to show up or lose the money,” Singh said. “But that entire segment is gone now.” 

Singh said Hawaii tourism could benefit from the COVID vaccine that is under development, but any visitor increase associated with vaccinations wouldn’t be reflected until next year.

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