By: D. Kennedy
Hawaii recently unveiled a pre-arrival testing program to welcome back travelers but the numbers have settled lower than the industry expected.
Oct. 15 marked the day Hawaii began its new program that gave travelers the opportunity to bypass a 14-day visitor quarantine. The number had peaked last Saturday at 5,124 arrivals, but by Tuesday had dropped more than 48% to 2,637 arrivals.
Tourism industry workers agreed that they don’t expect to see a meaningful economic recovery until next summer. The reopening has been choppy and the long-term expectations are recovered are expected pretty far out.
“Most of the Hawaii hotels that have reopened are only running at about 15% to 20% occupancy, and that’s without all of the hotel supply reopened. Performance is still marginal at 50% hotel occupancy and that’s the best that most Hawaii hoteliers could ever hope for right now,” said Keith Vieira, principal of KV & Associates, Hospitality Consulting.
Many restaurants and business owners have talked about the critical positions food halls and local shops have been put in. After the second shutdown, some found it impossible to recover from the months of lost revenue. The Street Food Hall, for example, is closing permanently on Nov. 8, after featuring 11 food stations and employing 115 people.
Located in the International Market Place in Waikiki, The Street was built around communal dining, something that is currently unsustainable under social distancing restrictions. They had been offering take-out and were open for sit-down services between the two shutdowns. It wasn’t enough to keep them afloat and they announced the shutdown of their business.
While being Hawaii’s single-largest hotel property, Hilton Hawaiian Village has also run into its own problems. The company is expanding furloughs past six months for 1,880 employees and would begin permanently laying off 55 employees this December.
Hawaii has the worst-performing hotel markets in the United States. Their hotel occupancy sits at 21.3% on Oahu, which is the lowest among the nation’s top 25 hotel markets. It’s going to take a long time before Hawaii gets back on track with a booming economy, but with the right elected officials, it’ll take less time than expected.