The head of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association (HLTA) is warning that if Kauai tourism doesn’t improve, and do so very soon, a huge percentage of businesses will fold permanently. The Kauai Chamber of Commerce echoed that sentiment based on their recent member survey. This is no joke, and neither is COVID. This is all devastating.
Mufi Hannemann of HLTA and prior Honolulu mayor expressed that the Kauai arrival options (3-night resort bubble with the second test, or visit another island first with the second test, or a 10-day quarantine) are hard to explain and even more challenging to sell to potential travelers. He added that “Federal relief and state assistance will not be enough to spur economic recovery on the Garden Isle.” Hannemann wants Kauai to modify its travel rules while not threatening its health-based concerns. Kauai’s business community is telling HLTA that “The changes aren’t working and that these latest tweaks won’t make enough difference.” Read on and that will be abundantly clear.
Kauai vacation arrivals now average fewer than 20 per day.
Travel to Kauai is at a virtual standstill since it opted out of the Safe Travels program six weeks ago. Since then, and with a mandatory 10-day quarantine, the island went out on its own with two options to quarantine. Those include both an unpopular and complicated resort bubble or a 3-day night stay-on-another-island-first plan. These measures haven’t amounted to anything substantial, and have instead resulted in Kauai vacation arrivals remaining at near zero.
Hawaii Tourism Authority data reveals dismal Kauai vacation arrivals.
For the week ended January 20, Kauai had 25, 9, 18, 9, 32, 21, and 20 trans-Pacific arrivals each day designated as “pleasure/vacation,” for a total of 134 for the week, or an average of 19 per day. Overall, the state had a total of 27,768 “pleasure/vacation” visitors or an average of 3,967 per day. That is according to the state HTA‘s passenger arrival data.
Kauai Chamber of Commerce catastrophic member survey results.
Last month, a Kauai Chamber of Commerce survey of its members indicated that 49% of those responding felt that their businesses would no last more than 3 additional months without a significant improvement to the island’s tourism.
Kauai’s largest hotels aren’t even open and don’t have plans to resume business soon.
Neither the Sheraton Kauai nor the Grand Hyatt, both at Poipu Beach, are open, with the Hyatt saying it will be at least March before it would even consider restarting. Except for a brief return to business before the last shutdown, these island mega-employers have now been closed for nearly 10 months.
Other stakeholders say that the variability of rules, especially those related to Kauai, harms Hawaii tourism overall. People don’t feel comfortable with the changeable island-by-island regulations. It is hard to keep up, even for us. That’s why we created our Hawaii COVID travel guide.
Let the comments begin. Here’s what you have been saying:
(Clifford) “For 13 years, my wife and I have happily vacationed for 3 weeks on Kauai… We considered Kauai’s special “resort bubble” option, but found it too complicated, too restrictive and way too expensive. It would cost us an extra $800 to stay at a hotel that we really don’t want to visit, $160 for 2 arm bracelets and $400 for 2 post travel testing. This is just not something we want or are willing to do. If Kaua’i does not change its travel restrictions within the next few days to be in sync with the rest of Hawai`i, we will cancel our trip and vacation elsewhere. This just does not make sense.”
(Greg) “If I had the leisure to travel at will, if I really needed to come to Kauai, I would spend time on another island first, then test and arrive free to Kauai, but most likely, I would simply go elsewhere and not come to Kauai at all and I believe this is what just about everyone else is doing as well.”
(John): “No visitor in their right mind will put themselves through Kauai’s “resort bubble” gauntlet when they can go to any other island and skip all that. For Kauai this proposal is just another nail in the coffin of small businesses. Ige needs to order Kauai to get back into the Safe Travels program.”
(Jay) “There is a responsibility to protect Hawaii locals, but the best way forward may not be to shut down the airports but rather to increase testing availability and promote re-opening.”
(Cynthia) “We are still against the resort bubble even though the place we are staying is becoming a bubble location. It’s too expensive and has too many rules and restrictions.”
Please add your thoughts.
What about the beach boy in Kauai ?
Ghery P says
Kauai Coast at the Beach Boy is closed right now. We had reservations for 5 weeks that were supposed to start on the 15th after a bubble resort stay and they’ve been cancelled. We are hoping to go in September at this point. We’ll see when they actually open.
Brian M says
To Angie T, as a malahini to the islands I have certainly come to appreciate the culture of Aloha and respect it every time we visit which was once or twice a year, enough so that we were told that we were Kama a’ina. While I agree we visit often I don’t think this haole will ever agree to that moniker. My wife and I are heartbroken over the situation on Kaua’i and until it gets resolved we will visit our other property on the Big Island or for now, the USVI a much closer flight than the 14 hour journey to our second ‘home’. Be safe and we hope to return soon.
Merry D says
I feel like some Kauai locals have historically had a stigma against visitors. COVID has pushed this problem over the edge. The county’s decision to opt out of and then rejoin Safe Travels with it’s own unreasonable modifications only makes it more public knowledge. Who wants to visit an island where visitors feel unwelcome? Locals need to let go of the contempt by letting go of the past. Pride is not a virtue in this situation. Why continue to develop a culture for resenting other cultures? Kauai needs to unite with the state’s program. It will be a lonely island should they not. Thank you for your consideration.
Beat of Hawaii says
Thanks for your input. It is definitely being seen by officials. Whether it is being heard is another matter.
David B says
We’ve been back on island since Nov 5, and have spoken with many full-time residents, especially since the Dec 2 shut-back-down. Nearly everyone likes it better without tourists. The light traffic, semi-empty beaches, quiet neighborhoods (ours, anyway), make island life way more enjoyable, unless of course you’ve been put out of work/business due to lack of tourists. Real estate, construction trades, residential landscaping/maintenance, etc., are booming.
According to the GI fish wrap, as of yesterday, 207 people have tested positive for COVID on Kauai since testing and perpetual counting began. One 84 year old gentlemen with stage 4 cancer passed away a few months ago. 3 people are “in isolation”, and the other 203 have officially recovered. No one is in the hospital because of COVID. IMO, there is no rational reason why Kawakami cannot rejoin the Safe Travels, he just doesn’t want to.
Robert L. says
My wife, my brother, his wife and I are all scheduled to stay at a resort bubble location in early March. We’re certainly not excited for the three day restrictions, nor the $300 per person charge for monitoring bands and Covid tests. We would much rather spend that money on activities and dining at local establishments. Better for the locals and better for our experience. We’re coming regardless, but keeping our fingers crossed that Kaua’i will change to a negative pre-test only before the date of our trip.
Donald E says
What needs to happen is to get the vaccination program on steroids to take care of the Kupuna and other at-risk residents. I am planning to come again in mid-May and just got my second Pfizer vaccination shot today. However, there is not any information yet on whether a vaccinated tourist will have access to the island without jumping through all the other hoops. Not sure I can handle another lost year.
Sam N. says
We had planned our yearly visit to Kauai in January for our family of 11 but due to the shut down, we were able to move that trip to Maui. Having just returned, we had a wonderful time even with all of the testing hoops. Every business we visited was thrilled to have us and we did our best to support them. Unless something drastic changes, we’ll likely not return to Kauai again.
Ashley S says
Curious if you could shed a little more light on your Maui trip?? We are scheduled to go next week and have been going back and forth about if we want to go ahead and go or reschedule again. Were you there when they put the contact tracing app requirement into place? Were restaurants limiting occupants like retail stores are as well? Any insight you could share on your experience would be appreciated! We’re hoping to keep our plans – hoping for some reassurance!
Ghery S. says
We have reservations for one of the bubble resorts and then 5 weeks at the planned resort. We’ll see if the delay in opening extends beyond our planned arrival (already delayed once). I’m not sure what we’ll do if it is delayed again. We’ve been to Kauai pushing 20 times over the years and I’m getting tired of this nonsense.
Not sure there is any way solution to your self inflicted issues. The local government needs to come up with a budget that is drastically lower than this year. I think you need to do a budget that calls for a budget that is 50% of your current budget. Tourism will not return until 2025, and then you’ll have to deal with trying to get companies you come back to reopen closed hotels, finding labor and hoping that there are non-stop flights to your island. Don’t think you can survive with only time share business, and the lack of air service.
Davene J says
Life over money – rare in this world. Most Hawaii politicians only care about the tourism dollar – the infrastructure proves that – I for one applaud Kawakami for his stand on life over money! I’m also sorry for all the business that will not be coming back from this horror, very sorry. I run a business myself on Kauai but on the upside, the turtles are coming back to the beaches at night the dolphins are exploding and whales are everywhere as it should be!!!!!
Holly G says
There were a crazy amount of turtles there when we were there in 2019.
Chip B says
We visited Hawaii, specifically Kauai, for the first time last March (just before the problems started). From the time I landed until we left, I had a big smile in my face and we never encountered the slightest ill will from the locals. We planned a son’s honeymoon (Nov 20) but cancelled and a return trip for us in Dec 20 but cancelled. I use your site to keep up to speed hoping for a possible return. unfortunately, it seems that will be pretty far in the future with less businesses to support. Obviously, the beauty and tranquility of the island is the draw. The restaurants, shops and tours only enhanced the experience. We look forward to less restrictive policies which will make our return possible in the near future.
Beat of Hawaii says
Happy to hear we are helpful in your planning process. We hope you can return soon.
David B says
The new CIC threw a biq pre-test and post-quarantine wrench at all US air arrivals Hawaii (maybe not not Kauai) rules suddenly look more reasonable. So much for the “no hassle” Mexico/Caribbean options. Florida will be more popular than ever.
I wonder if a pre-flight test for all domestic air travel is in the works?
Beat of Hawaii says
We have wondered that for a long time. It seems more likely now.
Robert M says
I people of Kauai should be very happy this is what they voted for.
Joyce L says
We have owned a timeshare in Kauai since 1995 and always look forward to spending time there. We have made many local friends and enjoy seeing them when we are there. We are in our 70’s and consider Kauai to be our second home. We have to make plans ahead of time to book our timeshare and travel. It’s not possible to do that right now so we are considering going somewhere else this year. We have limited finances and cannot afford the things required to visit. Also, our time is limited so quarantine in out of the question. I hope you will lift some of the restrictions soon so we can return to our Beautiful Kauai. We love Kauai and we love the people who live there.
Leslie W. says
Hawaii needs to get its together, and decide whether to return to the status quo, or spiral hopelessly back to the days of the Kamehameha years when they beat Capt. Cook to death out of fear. I mean, c’mon, it’s 2021!
Seems like the vaccine rollout in Hawaii should be changing the whole discussion. By the end of Feb most highest risk groups in the local population could be vaccinated. So the risks of high numbers of deaths and overloaded ICU units should go down significantly. If Kauai’s low number of ICU beds is what justifies the extra travel restrictions, then it also seems the state could focus a slightly higher number of the vaccine to the island. With it’s lower population even a slight shift would result in a higher number of the Kuaui population vaccinated. Seems like they could at least commit to a March 1st change to match the same restrictions of the other islands so people would start booking. I’m already considering cancelling my plans for a trip in May and planning for a different island. By then 40% of the population might be vaccinated, but with no plan from the island or state it’s hard to stay committed to a Kauai trip. A resort bubble is out of the question.
PAM M says
The vaccine nightmare is just beginning. Merck just dropped out of the vaccine race, and side effects plus lack of knowledge of whether it’s really going to work is becoming a reality.
Like a fine wine, vaccines cannot be rushed out. Difference is that a fine wine rarely kills people.
Don’t count on the vaccine to save tourism.
Mahalo Beat of Hawai’i for keeping us informed on the latest updates and on what others opinions are.
Global pandemic requires global information.
Beat of Hawaii says
Thanks. Yes, a lot of vaccine news coming out daily it seems. That is to a large degree why the state isn’t taking any action for now on allowing those vaccinated to travel without other restrictions.
Angela T says
This tragedy is a self inflicted wound by the Kauai (and State of Hawaii) leadership.
We were required to get tested at our own expense prior to departure from Seattle, and we were also tested upon arrival in Kona. The cost of our tests cost more than the airfare to Hawaii!
If you have the capability to test upon arrival, why are you subjecting travelers to these needless, expensive tests? Test everyone upon arrival, and require quarantine only for those that are positive. Executed properly, this can save your economy, but if you don’t act soon, it’ll be too late.
Haines J says
It seems that Zuckerberg wants to by up more land cheap. Could he be in control of these decisions? Money talks.
MJ J. says
I’m from the Big Island, my husband is 3rd generation from Kauai. We presently live on the mainland and had plans to return to Kauai after retirement. We always felt welcome to the islands, but seeing and reading how the locals are talking nasty about visitors is a huge turnoff. To the point that I told my husband I do not want to move there anymore as the locals no longer share the Aloha Spirit I grew up with. We used to visit three times a year to see family and friends. But that will now permanently change. I never want to go back. Ever. Most of the locals are blinded by this invisible enemy called Covid-19. Yes, it’s real, but no flu-like virus should stop you from living your life, or prevent others from enjoying God’s beauty such as the islands of Hawaii when following all mandated precautions. And how rude to call visitors “entitled” people. Those visitors have loved Kauai for decades and have embraced and respected the local style when visiting. And entitled to what exactly? Their so-called entitlement, as one commentator put it, gives you revenue for the island of Kauai so it can afford necessary community programs, hospitals, schools and support businesses. It supports the locals who support their churches, who then further supports the community. No money, no community services, no support system. And when the day comes, and it will, I will not support bailing out Kauai as they chose to drown themselves. Those locals will soon reap the ‘hatred’ seeds they have sowed and will come to realization that they cannot pay for their rent, mortgage, utilities (which is the highest in the nation), food, medicine, clothing, private schooling, etc. without the support from the outside world called….tourism. Good luck to the people we love who reside on this island, and for those who hate the tourists with a vengeance, don’t be surprised when you wake up destitute only to join the growing homeless population on the gorgeous yet quickly deteriorating beaches.
Laurie G says
MJ, This must be very painful to write and experience. Thank you for your wise perspective. If you have any other ways to convey your views, it would be appreciated.
PAM M says
Nice Laurie, I think MJ did a beautiful job of letting us know how she feels from the heart.
Maybe your comment could be better served with saying nothing, rather than critiquing someone’s truth spoken about her homeland.
Jeanne F says
I agree with everything you said in your sincere post. I am a Kauai resident who is very saddened by Kauai’s response to the pandemic
-I pray daily that inclusiveness,kindness,humility and gratitude for visitors will prevail.
Holly S says
Thank you for your comments! My family pinches pennies whenever we get to visit Kauai for two weeks at a time. We live in a modest home and are frugal so that we can visit our most beloved vacation spot, we have a trip booked for June 29-July 14 and we’ll probably have to cancel and do Florida instead! We are heartbroken to hear locals don’t want us even if we test and are negative. We are always mindful of Hawaii’s rules and honor getting to visit but we may never return?
Nash B says
Well, if Kauai’s intention long-term is to mostly close down to the outside, ok. As a small example, I lived on Maui when the Superferry was forced down Kauai’s throat by end-running proper procedure. So I sort of get it. Let alone all of the history that far precedes my time in the islands.
I also know that those who claim to be “for the people” can instead sometimes have their own interests in mind.
“The sheep spends its life fearing the coyote, only to be eaten by the sheepherder.”
Here’s to hoping that Kauai takes advantage of this incredible opportunity, to become more self-reliant- instead of becoming a place where Kauai and its “tourist industry” only gets repackaged as an opportunity only for the super wealthy.
Angela T says
We cancelled our trip to Kauai earlier this month, and choose to spend our time on the big island and Oahu instead. With the current restrictions, many of us just can’t afford the time and money that’s required to visit, and if things don’t change soon, our upcoming trip in April will take us to Cancun or Costa Rica instead. You need tourism, but you also need to consider that not all visitors have the cash that’s needed you visit Kauai. Subsidize covid testing and make visiting affordable. Even visitors are hurting financially. Please don’t abuse us for our remaining money.