Some Hawaii hotel officials expect tourism to recover slowly

Industry expert expects slow recovery for Hawaii's tourism industry in 2021

HONOLULU (AP) — Some hotel executives don’t expect a quick recovery for Hawaii’s tourism industry.

Visitor figures in November were about 77% lower than the same month in 2019, with just 183,779 total travelers, according to data released Monday by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Jerry Gibson, vice president for BRE Hotels & Resorts, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that from Dec. 24 to Jan. 3 — traditionally the state tourism industry’s peak — hotels that are open are reporting just 15% to 23% occupancy rates. Normally, Gibson said, occupancy rates would hover up between 93% to 97% during the holiday season.

Health officials across the country have urged people to avoid traveling and gathering with others, especially over the holiday season, to avoid spreading the virus. Hawaii requires people to test negative for COVID-19 before arriving in the islands or quarantine for 10 days.

Gibson and Keith Vieira, principal of KV & Associates, Hospitality Consulting, said strict and confusing travel rules and people not wanting to fly without being vaccinated have contributed to the decline in visitors.

They said they were optimistic that as more people receive the coronavirus vaccine, tourism will improve. But Vieira believes it will take months for the industry to bounce back.

“I hope in the summer we’ll see an uptick,” Vieira said. “But in the short term, it’s bad for us because people are going to wait until they get their vaccine.”

Gibson said he does not expect figures to return to a “percentage we’re all pleased with” until a year and a half from now.

The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization released a forecast earlier this month that estimated the number of air travelers would increase by 65.4% in 2021. The state Department of Business, Economic and Development projected overall arrivals to increase by nearly 127% next year.

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