Businesses optimistic about tourism reopening plan, but say they’ll need help to stay afloat

Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 6:05 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The reopening of Hawaii’s tourism industry will allow hotels to reopen and help struggling businesses, but some say they’re going to need more help to stay afloat.

“Retail businesses, restaurants, hospitality, they’re limited to one-half to two-thirds reduced capacity,” said Ryan Tanaka, president of Island Business Management and co-owner of Giovanni Pastrami.

“Revenue is down 25, 50, 75% — some even lower.”

Gov. David Ige announced Wednesday that the state will implement its much-anticipated pre-travel testing program on Oct. 15, allowing any visitor with a valid test result to avoid the 14-day quarantine.

But even with this development, most experts don’t believe that visitor arrivals over the next 12 months will top 20% of last year’s levels. Tanaka said more state and federal help is needed for small businesses.

“Businesses will also need a lifeline, some kind of financial relief if they are going to maintain jobs," he said.

Where that lifeline will come from isn’t yet clear. The first round of federal stimulus money for small businesses ran out around April and the next round is still hung up in Congress.

Ioannis Souvatzoglou heads tour operator HI5 Tours Hawaii, which specialized in visitors from Australia and New Zealand. He was able to keep his doors open and people employed with he received a Paycheck Protection Program loan in March. When the money ran out, he had to lay off five people.

With no stimulus money available now, he worries about his company’s outlook.

“There has been zero activity,” he said.

“Typically we got 30 emails (from prospective visitors) a day. For there to be zero emails for six months, it shows you where we’re at right now.”

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