More passenger arrivals brings optimism to tourism industry

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — The state’s safe travels program screened more than 26,000 arrivals on Saturday alone.

That’s a hopeful sign for airlines and those in the hospitality industry.

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The Hawaiian Airlines senior vice president of revenue management and network planning Brent Overbeek said they are adding more routes to California and Austin, Texas as demand increases.

Overbeek said, “A lot of what we were looking at were expectations of vaccination rates, and really using that as an expectation for people, when they would feel comfortable traveling.”

Hospitality analyst Vikram Singh said vaccination rates have a direct correlation to people’s comfort level to travel. He said hotels in Waikiki have seen an increase in occupancy during late February, but he predicts even more bookings will take place towards the end of the year.

“I’m extremely bullish for the end of the year because that’s when I feel, starting October, when hopefully most of the world is vaccinated,” Singh said. “By then we should see a full effect in travel and the market bouncing back.” 

It is not just the airlines and hotels that are seeing better business.

Eggs ‘n Things is scrambling at all four locations.

Regional manager Edwin Ohta said spring breakers are making-up many of their current sales.

Ohta said, “This past week we’ve been extremely busy, probably best sales we’ve had so far.”

It is getting tougher to find a spot at popular beaches in Waikiki, and all the incoming travel will test the state’s capacity to screen passengers for COVID-19.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO John DeFries said the state’s safe travels program had not operated under such large number of visitors in the past. There could be lessons learned as more people continue to arrive.

“These are parts of the lessons we will have to learn because there may need to be logistical improvements to accommodate better flow,” DeFries said. “But hats off to DOT airports for what they’ve been able to provide until now, but the system will get tested.”

As for businesses benefiting from the number of visitors, they are cautiously optimistic about the future.

“We have brought back some of our furloughed employees,” Ohta said. “We are slowly bringing them back. But we still want to make sure were watching what we do and what actions we do. You know, things can always change everyday.”  

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