‘Windfall’ from large TV production called a lifesaver for Hilo hotel, broader community

Published: May. 31, 2021 at 5:28 PM HST|Updated: May. 31, 2021 at 5:51 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On CBS’ “Love Island,” sparks fly ― and that fire is headed to Hawaii Island. The show about matchmaking is moving from Las Vegas to Hilo this summer.

State Film Commissioner Donne Dawson confirms the film production booked the entire Grand Naniloa Hotel in Hilo for the summer.

“They are going to be headquartered at the Naniloa and some other locales along the east side,” said Dawson.

Dawson says “Love Island” will spend much more than the last big film production on Hawaii island ― “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” in 2008 ― which spent nearly $20 million.

“It’s a big deal. Hawaii Island has not seen this level of production,” said Dawson.

“This budget is almost double that,” she added.

Separately, during a hearing last Friday, the state Land Board said the Naniloa would have its lease terminated in a week if it didn’t pay off unpaid rent.

For the hotel’s owners, “Love Island” is being described as a “windfall.”

Ed Bushor, CEO of Tower Development and managing partner of WHR, told the Land Board the Naniloa has been at 20 to 40% capacity during the pandemic.

But starting this weekend, all 388 rooms will be booked.

“The entire community of Hilo is not going to know what hit them with 1,000 people come into town for this bubble,” said Bushor.

He said the unnamed company agreed to pay $6 million in rent over the next three months and that means the hotel’s owners can pay $615,000 in unpaid rent to the state by the end of this week.

“Iʻm smiling right now because I can comply with all of my other obligations under the lease and it’s not for me, but it’s for the community that this guy just dropped some present upon all of us,” said Bushor.

Dawson says says there will be 100 local film workers on production while Bushor says he knows of at least 10 homes being rented in the area for the show’s executives.

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth says the tourism recovery has been slower for Hilo than the Kona side, but now many local businesses ― from restaurants to rental car businesses ― will benefit from the show.

“We are excited to have them here and it’s helping us getting our economy back to where we want to be,” said Roth.

The state’s film commissioner also says filming of reality show “Tempation Island” last fall at the Andaz Resort in Wailea, Maui set the safety standard during the pandemic with more than 6,000 COVID tests administered and none came out positive.

CBS’ “Love Island” will start airing five nights a week in early July.

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