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The Waikiki crowds are back, but tourism officials say it’s anything but business as usual

Updated: May. 3, 2021 at 3:49 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Sidewalks are much busier in Waikiki, but tourism officials say it’s anything but business as usual.

“Statewide overall average now, occupancy rate is just a shade below 50%,” said Mufi Hannemann, the president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association.

“So that’s far short of where we would like to be in order to bring people back to work. It’s sort of a mixed blessing right now.”

Kelii Gouveia, general manager for Duke’s Waikiki, says the good news is that most people who come into the restaurant follow the state’s mask mandate.

“They usually say the rules are different back home,” Gouveia said.

The biggest hurdle facing restaurants is something different.

“In Waikiki, being at half of our (location’s) capacity is very difficult when we’re allowing just a complete influx of visitors,” he said. “We’re very thankful for that, but we’re kind of handcuffed and haven’t been able to help them all, because we don’t have our capacity back.”

Meanwhile, residents are expressing mixed feelings about the return of crowds.

“I kind of like the quiet time without all the people there,” said resident Shana Liberman.

Concerns about visitors include what residents see as a lack of mask wearing.

“Some are coming from states where they don’t have a mandate,” said Angela Keen, founder of the Kapu Breakers Group, a volunteer community action committed to keeping Hawaii safe from the virus. “And they come here, either confused on educated or unwilling to wear masks.”

Visitors also have different opinions on Hawaii’s mask mandate.

“I’m fine with the mask-wearing,” said Lynn Wilson, a visitor. “We’re from Arizona, where there are a lot of cases. In fact, I had this problem. I was one of those cases.

Other folks on Waikiki are less receptive to wearing masks.

But Mylinh Moran, who is also visiting from Arizona, says the mask rule is overkill.

“People should get out and have a good time being out in the water and enjoying their life like normal. Not hiding behind these masks,” Moran said.

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