More hotels reopen as tourism quarantine exemptions begin


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Some of the larger hotel brands waited until the day tourists were able to get exemptions from Hawaii’s coronavirus quarantine to reopen their doors.

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Now, they are ramping up operations. As for the hotels that stayed open throughout the pandemic, they have been ready for visitors.

More than 8,000 passengers were expected to arrive in the islands Thursday, but there were not a lot of check-ins at the hotels.

Waikiki’s Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club has not closed from impacts of the coronavirus. They checked in just one guest who will be exempt from the quarantine orders.

The hotel’s general manager, Lynette Eastman, said they have been able to maintain occupancy primarily with military families checking-in.

“We’re very excited, today is a great day, a great feat to come,” Eastman said. “We were going to do this for two months, wow! Seven months have passed and so many things have happened.”

She said remaining open allowed them to keep up with the latest emergency orders and learn ways to implement them within the property.

Eastman said, “You know, all of the hotels that are opening now when it comes to quarantine vs. no quarantine, they will have to figure a system on how to keep track of who is and who isn’t.”

Some of the big name resorts, including Hyatt properties in Waikiki and Maui, reopened Thursday after being shut down since spring.

The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach held a soft reopening on Thursday. It plans to do an official opening on Nov. 1.

The resort’s director of sales and marketing, Sandy Narvaez, said the reopening allowed furloughed employees to return to work. Workers were trained on new safety standards and that information will also be shared with guests.

“I think we made a very intentional shift when we decided to reopen the property. We selected a date and it was like the light switch turned out,” Narvaez said. “Preparing them for their stay, making sure that our guests are knowledgeable of the rules that the State of Hawaii and the City and County of Honolulu has given to us and is guiding us with, we providing that information multiple times.”  

As more hotels get back to business, the competition to attract visitors begins once again.

Eastman said, “Even if we went from 1,000 to 7,000 arrivals, it’s not going to feed all of us.” 

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