Hotel industry balks at Mayor Caldwell’s criticism about educating tourists

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Leaders of the tourism industry say they are doing their share to make sure visitors know the rules, so the county should do more to enforce the law. This is after Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell criticized the industry for not educating tourists about wearing masks in public.

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Mufi Hannemann, the President of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association (HLTA), says he sees tourists and locals breaking the law by not wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. He thinks the law should have more teeth so violators are fined on the spot.

“Maybe that will make people realize that this is serious and you’re gonna have to pay that fine. If you want to challenge, it you go to court,” said Hannemann.

His response comes after Mayor Caldwell said too many tourists do not know what the rules are.

“There should at least be some form of handout given to visitors when they arrive, knowing what they need to do if they’re staying on the island of Oahu,” said the mayor.

He adds that hotels should be handing out leaflets and give friendly reminders. But Hannemann says the hotels are already doing that and more.

“There’s increased signage, there’s obviously constant reminders, we also post it on our videos there, so it’s really clear,” said Hannemann.

There is an educational video from the Hawaii Tourism Authority that is played at the different properties. As for enforcement, the mayor says because it is an emergency order, it would take the state legislature to change the law.

“There’s absolutely no flexibility in terms of we’ll do it like a traffic fine that is all and the only choice that the Honolulu Police Department has,” said Caldwell.

HPD says it has issued 4,500 warnings and 470 citations since tourism reopened on Thursday, Oct. 15 until Sunday, Oct. 18. Most of that was for not wearing masks and not maintaining physical distance.

But it is not just the mayor who’s concerned. On Oct. 20, Senate President Ron Kouchi also released a statement asking HLTA and the hotel industry for more information on how visitors are being informed.

The letter says, “The influx of visitors heightens the importance that all travelers arriving in Hawaiʻi understand and comply with the safety protocols.”

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