HONOLULU (KHON2) — During the delta surge this summer, Gov. David Ige asked visitors not to come to Hawaii through October, and the tourism industry took a hit.
“The restaurants have reported that they’re seeing a 50% to 60% loss. Attractions are seeing $30 million in cancellations in bookings across the board,” explained Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association President and CEO Mufi Hannemann.
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Hannemann said hotel occupancy over the summer was at 80% to 90%, and now it is down to 40% to 50%.
“So this has meant that workers hours have been shortened, people have been put on furlough, and that’s not a good trend,” he continued.
UHERO’s Carl Bonham said it’s important to start learning to live with the virus. He said jobs are down 14% from where they were before the pandemic, and while federal earnings kept families afloat, the assistance is now gone.
“The crisis for a lot of these households is really just the beginning or it’s just about to begin because the transfer payments are going away,” he said during a House hearing on Monday.
Experts and leaders are hopeful reduced restrictions and events like the Honolulu Marathon will bring more people to the state and put people back to work.
House Speaker Scott Saiki said the state is halfway through the month, and people need to begin booking their trips and know what to expect if they want to come to Hawaii for the holidays.
“We don’t want unvaccinated travelers, we want vaccinated travelers to Hawaii, but the governor needs to speak out, clearly and quickly at this point,” Saiki said.
Hannemann said it takes time to put people back to work, and visitors planning their trips need to plan their holiday vacations around things like rental cars which will be in low supply again this holiday season.
Unlike this summer, other countries could re-open, and it will bring competition to Hawaii.
“More places are opening up, so this is what confuses a lot of that responsible travelers out there because they go, ‘Wow, why is it that I can get to California get to New York? They don’t have as many restrictions, and why is Hawaii continuing to hold people back?’” Hanneman said.
He added that the state wants to start marketing to a more respectful and responsible traveler too.
“Most importantly, they’re going to know that we place a great premium on the person that is vaccinated to come here, and I think that’s sort of happening around the world,” he continued.
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Over the summer, the state saw about 35,000 daily arrivals. According to Hawaii Tourism Authority data, in late December 2019, there were about 40,000 arrivals daily.