Hospitality consultant Vikram Singh on Hawaii and the return of international visitors

A hotel analyst and consultant, Vikram Singh has been working in the industry for more than two decades. He moved to San Francisco to work for Pan Pacific Hotels & Resorts after working for the Taj Group of Hotels, Resorts and Palaces in India. He worked for investment firms that led revenue strategies for hotels. Singh established an eponymous hotel consulting company on the Island of Hawaii. Singh spoke with Tovin Lapan about the ups and downs of the tourism industry in the state.

The person is Vikram Singh.

Gov. David Ige discouraged tourism before welcoming visitors back at the beginning of November. What has this been like for people?

Ige's announcement in August took the wind out of the sails for tourism. We had the largest single day of cancellation on the site since the beginning of the epidemic. The pace and build-up from the summer were decimated by that. Hotels were trying to stay afloat in September and October.

The reopening announcement just didn't happen. The "Don't come" announcement got national media attention, but it didn't get nearly as much. We have to build back the lost momentum.

Which markets are you watching the most?

The U.S. mainland and Japan are the two biggest markets for Hawaii. The Japanese market is a quarter of all visitors to the island and Waikiki is dependent on it.

Australia and New Zealand have been growing in recent years. This is the midway point for flying to the mainland. Travelers can rest in Hawaii for a few days and not fly in one shot. Hawaii has become a popular destination for Australians.

What is your best guess for when international tourism will return to Hawaii?

International travel was supposed to come back earlier this year. Australia was sent into a tizzy by that, and Japan is not handling it well. It's a good sign that Hawaiian Airlines will resume its service from Honolulu to Australia in December.

I look at the Japan Times to keep up on when Japan will change its policies. I don't think there will be a rush in the first quarter. Some scientists are predicting a surge in Covid-19 during the winter. Until we get past this uncertain period of a possible winter surge, I don't see much changing with Japan. We could see a lot of people from Japan when Golden Week arrives at the end of April.

Hawaii's hoteliers hope for some stability as visitors return.

What are you looking for in the hotel industry in the future?

A: I think we should see a lot more families traveling with their kids. Most kids weren'tvaccinated up until now. A lot of families have not hit the road yet because of that. Hotels need to hire for a busy year.

The other thing is that sustainable travel is growing. More and more people are asking about their travel footprints. Hotels that can adapt to the demand for sustainable programs will find new customers.