Is Hawaii ready to welcome back tourists? Opinions vary among industry leaders

Experts from the visitor industry and healthcare sector weigh in on what it'll take to keep people safe while jumpstarting the economy.
Updated: Oct. 13, 2020 at 4:35 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With the reopening of tourism slated for Thursday, Oct. 15, the big question for tourism, travel and medical leaders is, “Are we ready?”

That was the issue local industry leaders pondered during a Hawaii News Now special panel discussion Monday night: The Tourism Test.

"We’ve been ready for quite some time and we are very anxious now that we have a date, said Mufi Hannemann, President of Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association.

He says the state’s hotels are ready to reopen with safety protocols in place.

But the hotel workers union says only 30 percent of its members feel ready to go back to work after doing their own inspections of hotels.

“The hotels could be focus for an outbreak. We think there’s a long way to go,” said Eric Gill, Secretary/Treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 5.

“We found that pretty much every hotel is behind in getting ready as we do repeated inspections,” he added.

Hannemann accuses the union of making it difficult for hotels to come back because of what he called “egregious” demands and legislation, but Gill said the union is protecting workers rights especially those with seniority and they will go back to work even if they don’t feel safe.

“We know the local economy will not go forward in any way shape or form in any substantive manner if we don’t start letting tourists coming back here. Local 5 needs to stand up to the plate and understand we want to compromise. We want to reach a reasonable conclusions and not held hostage over the demands of one union,” said Hannemann.

“It’s just not going to happen in the right way and the danger obviously is we’re bringing people back together in a hotel with guests and workers bringing them back together,” said Gill

Others are worried that tourists will bring more virus infections into our community, just weeks after a spike in cases threatened to overwhelm hospitals on Oahu.

Dr. Darrah O’Carroll, an emergency room physician and State Director of COVID Care for Premier Medical Group says he’s concerned about tourists and locals with just one pre-travel test. He’s advocating for two or three tests.

“I’m worried about both to be quiet honest. Both populations are going to pose a tremendous risk,” he said.

The CEO of Hawaiian Airlines says the airline is ready.

“The answer to the are we ready question is an emphatic yes from us. We’ve been operating actually throughout the pandemic so that gives us a lot of confidence that we’ve had time to refine our procedures,” said Peter Ingram, CEO of Hawaiian Airlines.

Sherry Menor-McNamara, CEO of Chamber of Commerce Hawaii says it’s time after businesses move forward and could not survive a third shutdown.

“There is no way businesses especially local and small ones can afford another shut down and that’s why we need to do everything we can to ensure to keep the case count low,” she said.

The special panel discussion will be available in full online and is on the Hawaii News Now Facebook page.

Coronavirus Pandemic: The Tourism Test

#WATCH: After multiple delays, tourism is set to restart in Hawaii this week. Experts from the visitor industry and healthcare sector weigh in on what it'll take to keep people safe while jumpstarting the economy in tonight's panel discussion, 'Coronavirus Pandemic: The Tourism Test.' READ MORE:

Posted by Hawaii News Now on Monday, October 12, 2020

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