Tourism in Hawaii: wide open

default

Hawai’i tourism seems like it just exploded. Many did not expect our islands to fill up so quickly. With the state easing up Covid-19 restrictions its seems like we are the current place to be. A friend of mine who is in the travel industry stated that U.S. Citizens are still leery of traveling internationally so Hawai’i is the next best thing.

Here on the island of Oahu we have seen multiple search and rescue missions (last week) due to hiking emergencies. Driving in Waikiki and the Ala Moana areas has definitely been more congested. Last week I have went to 4 beach parks and the most crowded ones were in the Honolulu area. I also had a chance to take a drive to the westside and experience a different form of congestion…local residents.

I will spend the next few paragraphs giving you a few of my observations, suggestions and ways to plan your next trip here.

The Irony

In 2020 Hawai’i experienced probably the worst economic blow in its history. When the state decided to impose heavy restrictions on most businesses (excluding major corporate stores like walmart, sams, target, costco etc.) many of them shut down completely. With tourism halted and legislative policies to “ensure the safety” of the public it hurt the small business in the process. Major corporations thrived. Here we are in 2021 where it seems like it should be open season on commerce. But it’s not. Hawai’i has the highest unemployment rate in the nation. There are so many vacant office spaces and a lot of people are still out of work.

So how will the influx of tourism be handled? I don’t think our lawmakers planned this far. Technically there is no roadmap for this because this is the first time this has ever happened. One thing is certain… People are flying in by the the thousands daily. And the businesses that are open can’t handle the business. A good example is our car rental industry. Due to high demand and low supply they raised the prices (astronomically) to make up for their much smaller fleet. As for the rest of the businesses we shall see how they handle it. It will take a minute until our economy can get its second wind.

Our Islands healed last year

One major benefit of the pandemic is that the islands had a chance to regenerate. Our beaches were cleaner. Our oceans seemed more crystal clear. The marine life seemed more abundant. Everything seemed to grow back. Our hiking trails were healing. Ironically it seemed like our air was cleaner. (Subjectively speaking of course… due to 100k less cars on our roads) A few friends of mine who fish even mentioned fishing being better than its been in years.

So what now?

A lot of businesses in Waikiki can’t get their old employees back because they get more money on unemployment. I’ve heard of a few people getting close to $4000 a month for unemployment benefits (thanks to state and federal money combined) A few people have had to make a decision to “ride it out” or take advantage of an “in demand” job market. I believe if our economy is going to thrive our businesses will have to get creative to luring potential employees. Our state legislators will have to revisit how they create laws to empower businesses (not cripple them)

As for the potential new visitors? Be patient. Be respectful of our islands, our people and our culture. It may take a minute, but we do need Hawai’i to thrive again. In this chapter lets be Pono. We can have our tourism and state healthy again. Lets just not overwhelm it.

(If you want the latest covid policies prior to traveling you can click here: https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel/faqs/)

Mahalo for reading! Be sure to follow @darealgreglopez on all social media to stay up to date on his “daily”.