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With COVID cases down, optimism is up about a tourism rebound

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 2:45 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 29, 2021 at 4:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The governor said this week that he hopes Hawaii will be able to welcome back travelers as Hawaii’s COVID case counts continue to trend downward.

And business leaders who met with the governor Wednesday morning came away from that meeting optimistic. They hope that the holiday season will make up for the lack of visitors in recent weeks.

At the peak of pandemic travel around late July, Hawaii saw more than 35,000 domestic travelers a day, according to numbers from the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Over this past weekend, there were around 20,000.

“The fall season is traditionally a very slow season for us,” said Mufi Hannemann, the president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism and Lodging Association.

“The challenge was when the governor had cautioned people not to come to Hawaii.”

Hanneman said hotels are operating at half occupancy and they’ve cut hours for employees.

He was happy to hear the governor on Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii say the state is working on messaging to welcome visitors back ― once Hawaii’s health care system can handle cases without the outside help they have now.

“Then certainly we would be more aggressive and active in encouraging visitors to return especially those who are vaccinated,” Ige said, on Spotlight Hawaii.

But Hannemann noted there are other aspects of the tourism industry that will take longer to recovery.

“We know international travel and the opportunity to host large gatherings and convention center type of conferences is what’s missing right now,” he said. “So we will never get to full recovery of some sort until we can get those markets back here.”

According to the Hawaii Restaurant Association, some restaurants in Waikiki are seeing a drop in sales between 40 and 60%.

HRA said after asking visitors to stay away and approving vaccine rules, the new message from the governor brings hope.

“I really do believe that that the governor and his team, along with members of the industries in the State of Hawaii, are working on that messaging to come out as soon as possible,’ said Greg Maples, the chairman for the Hawaii Restaurant Association.

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