Slow but steady tourism comeback prompts more Hawaii hotels to reopen

Updated: Nov. 13, 2020 at 5:37 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Despite a huge surge in COVID-19 infection on the mainland, tourism to Hawaii is making a slow but steady comeback.

The Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association says nearly 70% of its hotels are now open with more slated for the holidays.

The state reported about 7,600 trans-Pacific travelers arrived in Hawaii on Thursday and about half were coming for vacation.

That’s driving up demand in Waikiki.

One California visitor booked his first trip to Hawaii.

“It might normally be a little busier, but I kinda like it,” said Ricky Elizondo.

The Sheraton is now open, the Hilton Hawaiian Village is slated to open in mid-December and the Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger brought back a quarter of its employees for Friday’s reopening.

“I believe it’s a good thing seeing life coming back to the property and also to downtown Waikiki,” said Waikiki Beachcomber resort manager Edwin Torres.

The hotel says the state’s pre-travel testing program and a steady uptick in bookings gave it the confidence to move forward. Forty-two guests checked in Friday, vacationers and locals.

“It’s exciting. It’s been eight months. That’s a long time. We are happy to see those smiling faces,” said Torres.

Maui Brewing Company, a restaurant inside the hotel, is bringing back a quarter of its staff for its reopening on Monday.

“To make those calls again and say come on board, I had everything from people yelling and screaming to tears of joy,” said general manager Shawn Shelton.

For Hawaii’s no. 1 industry, it’s a steep uphill climb.

“The tourism recovery will be hampered by the public’s reluctance to travel and by macroeconomic weakness in all major visitor markets,” the UH Economic Research Organization said in a recent report.

UHERO predicts if there’s a third wave of illness and a vaccine not widely available until late 2021, the tourism restart could be significantly delayed.

On the optimistic side, economists say more rapid testing will speed up recovery.

“I’m optimistic. If we do the right thing and take the right precaution, we’ll see a good incline. It’s not like years prior of course,” said Torres.

The hotel says it’s reminding visitors about masks. If a guest tests positive and needs to quarantine, they get a key they can only use once.

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