HONOLULU (KHON2) — Starting Oct. 15, visitors will be allowed to bypass quarantine as long as they can show that they’ve tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of their flight.
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Hawaii Governor David Ige first announced that tourism could reopen on Aug. 1, but due to a spike in COVID-19 cases on the mainland, he pushed it back to Sept. 1.
Then Oahu saw a spike in cases in August and he delayed tourism again to Oct. 1.
The continued push back has left some hotels and potential guests feeling uneasy on whether Oct. 15 is the actual and final date.
“As we open the doors, people are going to have to be able to recognize, especially here in Hawaii, that it’s not going to be a flood of visitors coming in overnight. It’s just not going to happen because of the delays because of the perception,” explained Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association President and CEO Mufi Hannemann. “And because of the reality that we’re just not totally capable of giving 100% type of experience that they’ve been used to seeing in the past years or pre-pandemic.”
KHON2 asked Hannemann if he had a guesstimate as to how many hotels would reopen by October 15.
“It’s hard to say,” he said.
He said tourism leaders will have to work with partners, who have been selling Hawaii throughout the years, to assure them that Hawaii is in fact open for business, despite the continued push-back and delays this summer.
“There’s still a bit of work we have to do to tell them. Yes, it’s for real and we are opening up,” Hannemann said. “They were told all this on September 1, and there was so much uncertainty about October 1. So a lot of that has to be put back out there.”
He said confidence and trust has to be rebuilt with their partners.
Hotels statewide have updated their COVID-19 terms and conditions and cancellation policies on their websites. Several hotel websites acknowledged Hawaii’s 72-hour negative testing program on the top of the screen and some resorts even state that they will require proof of a negative test at check-in.
Hannemann said there are still some things to be worked out at the state-level in respect to testing and pre-testing requirements.
“People want to know, in fact that they can actually get a test quickly. They know it’s going to cost about $140 to do so. So, all those things, a lot of T’s to be crossed a lot of I’s to be dotted. And it all comes down to trust and confidence that in fact, Hawaii’s market will, in fact, be open,” Hannemann continued.
He said it’s still too early to tell how many hotels will be open and how much staff will be brought back and said it will depend on what the demand will look like.
An American Hotel and Lodging report released on Aug. 31, showed Oahu as the worst-hit market by COVID-19. The Hawaii spokesperson said that for Hawaii hotels to be profitable, they need at least 52% occupancy for the year.
“In terms of how it impacted the visitor industry, the hotels in Waikiki had an average occupancy in August of about 20%. Now, that number sounds low, and it is the lowest in the country by a lot, but that number is artificially high as we measured only open hotels. The vast majority of hotels were not open in August,” explained Kekoa McClellan.
“We will be fortunate if we have a blended average occupancy rate north of 30% at December 31, 2020. That means that all of Hawaii hotels have been and will be operating in extreme red through the end of the year,” McClellan continued. “It’s going to take some hotels longer than others to prepare themselves for that reopening. And hotels will open when and only when there is adequate demand and adequate safety precautions in place.”
Some hotels that were closed throughout the pandemic have started accepting reservations online for Oct. 15.
However, there are several hotels and resorts that won’t allow you to make a reservation for the rest of the year or until Dec. 15.
The Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association created health and safety standards for hotels to follow.
Staff will be trained on dealing with a potential COVID-19 positive guest, proper social distancing, cleanliness and implementing new plans like keyless entry, disinfecting high touch areas regularly, and grab and go meals for food and beverage operations.
To view HLTA guidance, click here.