Maui businesses brace for ‘Safer Outside’ program

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — As the delta variant continues to spread in Hawaii and the summer travel boom begins to slow, many Maui businesses are on edge.

“I’m worried about my staff. I’m worried about keeping everybody employed,” said Melanie Wicker, the general manager of Lineage restaurant in Wailea.

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Wicker said her restaurant is preparing for the roll-out of the ‘Safer Outside’ program. She said she cannot help but feel nervous for how the new rules will impact business.

“So we’re going to have to post a manager at the front desk every day and have to see how people respond. But yes, it’s going to be a lot of extra pressure on our staff, on all of us, to take people’s vaccines, verify the vaccine cards, verify the negative tests,” she said.

On top of having to make sure indoor dining guests are vaccinated against COVID, Wicker said the restaurant is already dealing with a staffing shortage.

Mike Marcol is the owner of Tante’s Maalaea Harbor. He said he is also bracing for the new rules.

“Tuesday, we have a humongous influx in reservations. People are booking left and right, almost like the last hurrah,” Marcol said about restaurant reservations before Maui’s Safer Outside program goes into effect. “As everyone knows, businesses have already suffered a lot through COVID, especially restaurants, and this thing, we really don’t know how bad it’s going affect everyone.”

It is not just the vaccine passport program that businesses are bracing for. Many are worried about having enough business as tourism slows down.

Some businesses told KHON2 that they are already seeing cancellations since Gov. David Ige asked travelers not to come to Hawaii.

“The governor made the statement that he did, and things got pretty nervous on the part of our guests, and as quickly as the business turned on, it turned off at that moment,” said Dream Come True on Maui Bed and Breakfast owner, Tom Croly.

According to the Maui Hotel and Lodging Association, there have been 52,004 room night cancellations since Gov. Ige’s press conference three weeks ago. Those cancellations have resulted in $25.2 million in lost revenue.

Wicker said many hotels are also experiencing an influx in cancellations in the upcoming months.

“Grand Wailea, the Marriott, the Andaz, they’re all having major cancellations,” she said. “Therefore, it trickles down, and all of my larger parties are starting to cancel as well.”

As Maui heads into another period of uncertainty for business, Wicker asks customers to be kind to those who show up to work.

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“I just want people to be empathetic and kind and understanding with the people who are here because they’re here, working hard every day, you know, we work super hard to keep this restaurant open,” she added.

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