The New Normal: Changes at the Waikiki Aquarium due to COVID-19

Local News

There’s no denying, COVID-19 has impacted almost every aspect of our daily lives. It will be a long time before life goes back to the way it used to be several months ago.

Even a trip to the Waikiki Aquarium will be different in this new normal.

KHON2’s Lauren Day spoke to Dr. Andrew Rossiter, the director of the Waikiki Aquarium, about the changes visitors can expect.

The aquarium has been a part of Hawaii’s community for 116 years. Over the years, it has no doubt been through a lot, but perhaps nothing quite as difficult as this pandemic.

“Tourists accounted for roughly 70% of our visitorship and obviously now that has crashed to nothing. So challenging. Financially challenging,” Dr. Rossiter said about the impact the coronavirus has had on the Waikiki Aquarium.

Like so many businesses, the Waikiki Aquarium has taken a major hit due to COVID-19.

“What has happened since mid-March is we’ve had zero income I mean literally zero,” Dr. Rossiter explained. “And yet I’ve still had to do a full set of expenditures, paying for salaries, paying for food for the animals, paying for electricity, etc. So this little detour has cost us about $2 million.”

Now the aquarium is back open and trying to stay afloat, but it won’t be the same as you might remember.

“Plexiglass on the front desk and in the gift shop. We are now a no cash operation, so everything has to be done through credit card,” Dr. Rossiter said about some of the changes in place.

Among the changes, there will no longer be touch screens and interactive exhibits for children.

“There were many touch screens that people could use. We’ve decommissioned those. There was the edge of the reef exhibit, where the kids could touch marine animals, but that would’ve been a real hotspot for potential transfers of COVID, so we decommission that as well,” Dr. Rossiter said.

The aquarium is also limiting visitors to 50 people per hour, and you must make a reservation online.

Don’t forget your mask, and make sure you pay close attention to the new pathway inside the aquarium.

“There’s a one-way route. Obviously, if you’re in the same gallery, you’re more than welcome to look back as it were, but don’t go in the back entrance and out the front,” Dr. Rossiter said.

Dr. Rossiter said the aquarium desperately needs locals to pay them a visit.

“What I would like to tell the local community is to please be aware of the plight of the aquarium. It’s very, very dire. Under the present circumstances, I don’t think will last another six months,” he said.

The Waikiki Aquarium relies heavily on ticket sales to fund almost everything.

For tickets to the Waikiki Aquarium, click here.

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