More visitors return to Hawaii but not all hotel employees are back to work

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii hotels are averaging about 50% occupancy, even though visitor arrivals continue to rise.

Those numbers are not enough to bring all furloughed hotel workers back on the job, but those who are working say they could use more help.

Many hotel properties in Hawaii are back open, but not all employees are back at work. Julie Gabot has worked in housekeeping for more than 30 years at the Sheraton Waikiki. She says her workload has increased.

“We were told to do whatever we can, to try our best to finish the rooms,” Gabot said, “but we told them it’s hard because we have to sanitize everything, we have to clean all of the high touch areas.”

It is taking longer for housekeepers to clean rooms since housekeepers are not cleaning them daily due to COVID-19 social distancing protocols. Under Sheraton Waikiki’s collective bargaining with Local Five, housekeepers cannot be penalized for not finishing their rooms.

Gabot said, “Sometimes I even ask for help from my housekeeper manager, to help me remove the rubbish because it’s really hard for me to clean the room, I can not really finish all of my rooms.”

Other positions in food, beverage, valet and bellhop remain understaffed at some properties.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association spokesperson Kekoa McClellan says more positions will be filled once occupancy rises.

He says not all travelers are choosing to stay at hotels.

“When we look at how we get our employees back, it really is related to how and when we get our guests  back,” McClellan said. “One of the unfortunate side effects of the pandemic was a lack of focus on enforcing against illegal short term rentals in our communities.”  

McClellan calls for more enforcement of the law to curve the illegal stays.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association says departments like food and beverage will increase employment levels once conventions and large groups return.

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