By: Amoka Mele
Tourist are finding some difficulties as they return to vacation in the islands. Despite Hawaii’s restrictions, tourism numbers are at about 75 percent their 2019 pre-pandemic peaks. This return is remains absent tourists from Asia who are still under more severe travel restrictions than the United States. What are the difficulties that returning tourists are encountering?
Visitors are arriving in Hawaii from states where there are fewer mask restrictions. When told to put on their masks by either residents or authorities, tourists are getting angry and resisting. Incidents of assault are rising in the state. Until Hawaii’s reopening comes on par with the other states, Hawaii police departments will be busier than normal.
Tourists are finding higher prices. Gas prices have risen over 60 cents per gallon since November 2020 and taxes are higher. Businesses themselves are raising their own prices to account for the taxes and to try and cut into the profits they lost in 2020. It is now more expensive than ever to vacation in Hawaii.
More homeless will be visible. Before the pandemic, there were close to 6,400 homeless here. Now the estimate is closer to 10,000. The homeless number generally counts both sheltered and unsheltered homeless, but the numbers are not exact. The state government contends that the homeless rate has gone down but who then are in the additional cars and trucks parked on the backroads and in the big makeshift tents on the beaches at night? State unemployment remains around 56,000 which is nearly three times the pre-pandemic average.
Very few Hawaii tourist businesses are fully open, and some are remaining closed. This has an unsettling effect. Tourist silently wonder how stable Hawaii truly is and how effective vaccines truly are when everyone are still wearing masks amid empty suites and silent businesses. Tourist cannot genuinely enjoy their vacations and hesitate to passionately commit to a return visit.
The businesses that are open command pricing. There is less competition to drive prices down. No businesses can operate at full capacity. Tourists are finding longer wait times or no availability. Restaurants are struggling to return enough workers to operate which also leads to longer waits and longer service. Those workers who have returned are often on overtime and pulling double shifts. Food server commitment to provide quality service with a smile is tested when fatigued by tourists who resist following Hawaii’s overly strict Covid 19 rules.
Hawaii remains 2-3 months away from optimizing the tourism industry and even then, tourism is likely forever changed. Vacating here is too expensive and too restrictive. People are going to go somewhere else.