As visitors return, Hawaii's hoteliers hope for some stability

For Hawaii's tourism industry, the pandemic was a long and dangerous roller coaster ride. Hoteliers in Aloha State hope that Gov. David Ige's decision this month to reopen the state for visitors will make things easier.
Even though international travel was virtually non-existent, Hawaii's tourism industry had made a strong recovery by midyear. The July 2019 July figure of 82% hotel occupancy was three percentage points lower than the July 2019 figure. According to data from STR, RevPAR outpaced July 2019 by 17%. The average daily rate was $303, a 21% increase.

The delta variant arrived in Hawaii by the end the month. A statement made by the governor late August disallowing any unnecessary travel deflated Hawaii’s bounce. According to the latest data, September saw occupancy drop to 55% and RevPAR fall to $168.

Sean Dee, chief of commercial at Outrigger Hospitality Group, stated that the cancellation rate at Hawaii properties tripled and remained the same for six consecutive weeks after Ige's announcement.

Dee stated, "Our business was destroyed from late August to early Oct."

Kekoa McClellan (Hawaii spokesman for American Hotel and Lodging Association) said that the association supported the governor’s decision against travel during the surge but still felt the state’s hotels were hard hit.

McClellan stated that although Ige's decision will be a positive, it will not make a difference if visitors continue to be discouraged through the end.

McClellan stated, "It's exciting that we can support safe tourism in Islands before the holiday rush." "But, we still see a soft holiday season and hotels are responding accordingly. For the rest of the year, there are great deals on the islands.

Dee stated that Outrigger anticipates a gradual increase in foreign visitors to Hawaii, but that a full recovery will not be possible until 2023. Residents returning from the U.S. are subject to a 10-day quarantine in Japan, Hawaii's main international market.

Sean Dee, Outrigger

Hawaii is still waiting for the return of business and group travel. This, along with loosening capacity restrictions at businesses will be crucial to bringing back more hotel workers. McClellan stated that Hawaii's group travel is 77% less than it was in 2019. This represents a $1.5 billion economic loss.

McClellan stated that McClellan believes the return to international travel and the relaxation of restrictions on events and meetings are both very positive steps. A hotel may be 100% occupied, but it might not be full employment. Many people work in the banquet, food-and-beverage, and event areas of the hotel. Without these activities, properties can't return to full employment.

With daily Covid-19 cases below 100 and 70% of the state population fully immunized, there is some hope that the slow and steady progress in the recovery will be over soon.

Dee stated that "I believe we're in a final push here, but I'm very optimistic regarding the festive season." "You never know what lies ahead, but I am bullish for the near-term as well as the long-term."