Tourism-dependent businesses wonder if they can make it to September

‘We’re really struggling’: Tourism-dependent businesses wonder if they can make it to September

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Rising coronavirus cases both in Hawaii and on the mainland have prompted Gov. David Ige to delay reopening tourism until Sept. 1.

And that delay comes at a significant cost for tourism-dependent businesses.

“Every time they push it back, it pushes me back,” said Tony Tagle, a cook at Sammy’s Beach Bar and Grill at the Honolulu airport. He hasn’t worked since mid-March.

He said the decision delays the date he returns to work and fears he may never return at all.

“It’s going to push me back since I’m the bottom of the totem pole. It’s probably going to push me back to December, January, maybe even longer,” Tagle said.

“We’re really struggling right now and none of our jobs are guaranteed.”

The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park just reopened last month and was looking forward to new visitors.

Normally it makes about $10 million a year.

So far in 2020, it has made less than $2 million and now face more layoffs.

“Prior to the shutdown, we were at about 50 and I’m down to less than 40 right now and I’m probably headed to less than 30,” said Executive Director Chuck Merkel.

Some in the tourism industry, however, say the delay was necessary.

“Obviously, we want to go back to work but we also want to be safe when we go back to work,” said Eric Gill with UNITE HERE Local 5, the hotel workers’ union.

Gill said employees have been given no plan for health and safety when they head back to work.

“In the morning, housekeepers gather in a big room, shoulder to shoulder for their briefing. That has to change. The number of people that can get on elevators, that has to be watched,” Gill said. “It’s not appropriate to put dirty linen down a linen chute right now and yet, that’s what they’re doing.”

Gill said the delay buys them time to roll out a plan as far as guidelines, training, securing personal protective equipment and acquiring more tests.

“The government has to step in or those places won’t work safe and if they don’t, we’ll all get sick,” he said. “It puts back the time when we can go back to work, but it gives time for us to do it right, if they use the time instead of wasting it playing politics and election games.”

The union is planning a caravan through Waikiki this Wednesday from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. to get their voices heard.

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