Hotel industry, businesses urge governor to relaunch trans-Pacific travel by mid-October

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Updated: Sep. 16, 2020 at 2:25 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state’s hotel industry and several business leaders are calling on the governor to reopen to trans-Pacific as soon as possible.

“We’re hoping Oct. 1, that’s what he’s talked about. If it ain’t going to happen Oct. 1, it has to happen shortly thereafter,” said Mufi Hannemann, CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association. “We’ve been ready for quite some time. In fact, we have 5,000 rooms in Waikiki that are ready to go tomorrow."

In a letter to Gov. David Ige, the association, the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii and the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation said that if the state can’t reboot tourism by Oct. 1, it favors reopening in stages.

Those stages could include the creation of resort bubbles for travel to the Neighbor Islands or a pre-testing program for inter-island travel. Ige just approved a plan for resort bubbles on Kauai.

The Chamber of Commerce said the delayed reopening is hurting businesses, their employees and their families. “The more we delay, the more dire the situation becomes for our small business and local business community,” said Sherry Menor-McNamara, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii.

State Sen. Glenn Wakai said hotels have been working hard to establish safety measures. “I think a lot of them have been ready for months. We went and toured the Outrigger, the Alohilani (Resort) and the Hilton (Hawaiian Village) about a month an half ago and I was very impressed with the protocols" said Wakai.

“Everything from spending hours training their employees and getting the right sanitation supplies.”

While the hotels are taking steps to make their properties safer, the union representing hotel workers said they’re not enough to protect their employees.

“It’s absolutely apparent to us that more work has to be done to get it right,” said Eric Gill, financial secretary for Unite HERE, Local 5, which represents 9,000 hospitality industry workers.

“The provisions for the safety of workers ... to ensure the back-of-the-house safety and cross contamination type of protections are not in place.”

The union said many hotels aren’t testing their own employees.

It added that union members are conducting their own inspections for the hotel’s safety protocols and are posting the results on the union’s website.

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