With cautious optimism, Hawaii hotels prepare for tourism’s return

Updated: Jun. 25, 2020 at 9:20 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger, renovated last year, has been shut down since late March.

Now, the hotel is preparing to fling open its doors Aug. 1 when Hawaii reopens tourism under a plan that allows visitors to forgo mandatory quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19 before arriving.

Edwin Torres, resort manager for the Waikiki Beachcomber, said he’s “thrilled” to get back back to work.

“It gives us the opportunity to not only bring the guests back to our hotel, but we have some workers who are on furlough right now and we will be able to bring some of them back,” Torres said.

While it was shut down, the hotel kept only a handful of staff on hand so they could maintain the nearly 500-room property.

Now there’s five weeks to get ready for reopening, which includes training and new cleaning protocols.

Across Kalakaua, the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort has remained open and has new safety protocols, signage and equipment like ultra-violet wands to protect staff and guests.

Occupancy has been low with mostly kamaaina, frontline workers and military. But the hotel says it’s ready for the visitors to come back.

“It will be slow and we are ready at Outrigger to really focus on safety,” said Kelly Hoen, area general manager for Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort and Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger.

Hoen says the hotel had only a few quarantined guests who stayed in their rooms and staff checked on them daily and made deliveries.

"We issued them a one-time use key and they knew that going in so when you are in your room you are in your room. If you exit your room, you can't get back in. We really did not have any issues," she said.

The bigger challenge she says is seeing a once-thriving Waikiki visitor industry crippled by the pandemic crisis.

"What's been hardest for me personally is the impact on our staff, our hosts, and really wanting them to be back," said Hoen.

Those in the hotel industry say they’ve never seen anything like this, but they’re hopeful for the tourism relaunch later this summer.

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