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Tourism leaders report ‘staggering’ losses in weeks since governor told visitors to stay home

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 5:23 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 10, 2021 at 5:35 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three weeks after the governor told visitors to stay away amid an ongoing COVID surge, tourism leaders say economic losses are in the millions.

They also say they’re trying to avoid more layoffs.

On Friday, Waikiki was warm, calm and not as packed as over the summer when pandemic fatigue helped trigger a travel boom. The slower travel season, cancellations after the governor’s announcement, and few international visitors is all triggering anxiety for the tourism industry.

“We are seeing loss in reservations, loss in bookings,” said Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association.

The governor’s plea to tourists asking them to hold off on non-essential travel was on Aug. 23.

Rod Antone, executive director of the Maui Hotel and Lodging Association, said national news organizations picked up the story quickly.

Within an hour, the cancellations started coming in. So far, Maui County has seen at least 52,004 room night cancellations and at least $25.4 million in losses, he said.

“This is very likely just a snapshot of the cancellation picture here,” said Antone.

Hannemann, meanwhile, called the losses “staggering.”

“We know that a lot more people want to come back to work,” he said.

John Kevan, managing partner for Maui Paradise Properties, oversees 300 vacation rentals with more than 30 staff members. He says there have been more than 270 cancellations worth half a million dollars in revenue to his company. He hopes to avoid layoffs.

“We pulled back two job offers we had out and we pulled out three more job listings off the market because we’ve seen a pretty significant slow down in bookings and reservations,” said Kevan.

Pamela Tumpap, president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce, says businesses are frustrated.

“Small and medium businesses are saying this is already having another negative impact,” said Tumpap.

Maui hotel leaders say typical occupancy for September is around 50 to 60%, but hotels report they’re down to 20 to 30% occupancy.

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