Government and industry leaders are seeing a slight uptick in hotel demand for Maui ahead of the state’s pre-travel testing program, an effort to revive the state’s visitor-reliant economy.
David MacLean, Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa director of sales and marketing, said the Hyatt plans to open Oct. 15 and is solidifying reservations with guests.
“We are seeing positive booking pace in October and beyond, however, we do not anticipate higher occupancy levels until testing protocols are confirmed,” he said Friday.
Angela Vento, general manager of the Wailea Beach Resort, said the resort is experiencing a slight increase in new bookings.
“This is a welcome reversal of the past months’ cancellation trends,” she said Friday. “The numbers remain small and attaining 20 percent occupancy for November would be a winning start.”
Crissa Hiranaga, Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea public relations director, said the hotel is accepting reservations from Nov. 20 onward.
“As certainty around the state’s reopening plans grows, call volume has increased substantially and reservations have seen an uptick as well,” she said Friday.
The pre-travel testing program, a way to bypass the state’s 14-day mandatory quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test taken 72 hours from departure for trans-Pacific travelers, is scheduled to launch Oct. 15.
Details on the plan remain unclear, though, and some county leaders, such as Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino, are advocating for a second COVID-19 test to be taken within 48 or 72 hours upon arrival.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green said this week that a second test would deter travel, prove difficult to enforce and deplete test supplies.
Mayors also have yet to decide whether changes will be made to interisland travel protocols, which are not related to the trans-Pacific pre-travel testing plans. Flyers to the Neighbor Islands have to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Victorino maintained the need for a second test taken 48 to 72 hours after arrival during his Friday afternoon news conference. The mayor added that he is “insisting” that this rule apply to trans-Pacific travelers to Maui County.
“We’re getting pushback from the state,” Victorino said.
The mayor said he anticipates thousands of people will come to Maui per day once the state reopens and argued that medical experts advocate for secondary tests.
Ron Williams, former Hawaii Tourism Authority chairman and tourism industry veteran, said the disconnect among the mayors and the governor make explaining rules a challenge.
“It is confusing,” said Williams, a Maui resident. “And I don’t know if the mayors are on the same page.”
Williams said visitors are calling his tour company not necessarily to make reservations, but to ask about the process of traveling to Hawaii so they don’t have to quarantine.
“They also want to understand if there are things they can actually do when they visit,” he said.
Green on Thursday said the state needs to focus on economic health as well as physical health and reopening to visitors is essential for recovery.
Projected hotel room bookings statewide October through February show that Maui has the highest percentage of possible recovery, according to data presented by Green.
Maui’s October bookings are 29.4 percent of what they were a year ago. The bookings increase steadily over the following three months, before leveling off — 46 percent in November, 55 percent in December, 66 percent in January and 64 percent in February, compared to the previous year.
“This is very important because a lot of our people are struggling,” Green said. “A lot of people are suffering on the Neighbor Islands where the economy is almost completely tourism based.”
Green said airport officials are seeing a “very large demand” for travel Oct. 15. He said his talk was intended to reassure people that the program, which had been repeatedly pushed back, will actually begin this time.
A University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization discussion, published Thursday by authors Paul Brewbaker, Frank Haas and James Mak, was critical of the government’s disjointed pandemic response.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed several critical weaknesses in Hawaii’s readiness to respond to crises,” the discussion said. “The most glaring weaknesses are poor crisis management at the state level and confusing coordination between the state and the four county governments.”
* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at [email protected]
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