Hawaii Hotels See Momentum As Holiday Season Approaches

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HONOLULU (KHON2) – Many in the tourism industry are hoping for a busy holiday season as COVID cases continue on a downward trend. Hoteliers said the more reservations the more employees they could bring back to work.

Hotel properties are recovering from a very slow fall season which was in part affected by Governor David Ige’s announcement to suspend non-essential travel.

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Prince Waikiki’s chief executive Joshua Hargrove said they were starting to see more confidence from people booking trips towards the year-end festivities.

“The occupation is starting to resume. We’re starting to get reservations, ”said Hargrove. “We are starting to get our staff back to work, so it looks positive. We are booming.

Hargrove said reservations fell in September to less than half occupancy, compared to a busy summer when they were operating almost fully with the exception of large events in the property’s ballrooms.

Staffing levels at the hotel are directly related to occupancy.

“We want to donate hours wherever we can, but if there aren’t any rooms that are occupied, we can’t hire housekeepers to clean those rooms,” Hargrove said. “The same if the restrictions come out and say we are not allowed to have more than 10 indoor events. Well, there are no weddings that we do that are going to be 10 or less.”

Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association president and CEO Mufi Hannemann said hotels are taking steps to educate unions and share meeting notices in preparation for vacation travel.

Hannemann said more hotels will be staffed once there is a clear message from the governor to welcome safe tourism again.

“We would like this announcement to say that we welcome travelers to Hawaii, especially those who are vaccinated,” Hannemann said. “If you come here and you are not vaccinated, well, there are steps and things that you are going to have to do: take a 72 hour pre-COVID test; you may need to quarantine. All of these things shouldn’t relax.

If restrictions continue to ease and larger domestic events are allowed again, Hargrove said they are expected to reach full staffing levels for the first time since the pandemic.

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“We need to be able to use our ballrooms and all of our meeting spaces that are empty,” Hargrove said. “So being able to have restrictions while still allowing us to be able to do these events safely would be my wish list item.”

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