No industry has been as hard hit with the pandemic as tourism.
With the fears surrounding flights, contamination, and foreigners, traveling almost completely ceased for a moment in time.
As states begin reopening their borders they are finding jumpstarting the economy difficult – and that closing yourself off from the world may have been a choice you can never recover from.
Much of the world looks to the white sand beaches and towering volcanic landscape of Hawaii as THE vacation hot spot.
Chances are if you have not already traveled to Hawaii, it is on your list of dream vacations.
And for good reason!
The hottest accommodations may not be available on your next visit.
The Sheraton Waikiki in Honolulu is on the famous Waikiki beach and offers relaxing days drinking cocktails adorned with little umbrellas in an infinity pool before having a culinary explosion at one of their four exquisite restaurants.
After eating an authentic Hawaiian “poke” bowl you will whisked away to a luau on the beach equipped with tantalizing hula and fire dancers who make you feel like the life of the party after placing a lei on your neck.
While this hotel offers everything you would expect from the perfect Hawaiian vacation experience and more, it is suffering tremendously after the pandemic news shocked the world.
Jordyn Wallace used to enjoy all the new, smiling faces she would encounter working the front desk of the Sheraton Waikiki – that is until she was laid off.
Fear of COVID-19 has created a shift in tourism like we have never seen before.
Hawaii made the tough choice to shut the state down in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 throughout their archipelago.
On March 21, Hawaiian Governor David Ige made the announcement that all visitors are required to quarantine for 14 days.
As one could expect, this, accompanied with the state mandates to shut-down stores and restaurants, caused tourism to disappear almost completely.
Just as in the case with New York City right now, as Proud American Traveler has previously reported, who would want to visit a destination when they know they will be spending their time there with a view of four walls rather than the breathtaking Kualoa Ranch on Oahu?
Wallace told The Guardian about the eerie void at the hotel:
“I have never seen Waikiki so empty. It felt surreal because no matter what time of day it is, you always see visitors in Waikiki. We have more than 1,000 rooms. It’s a huge hotel, and to not see a single soul on property was crazy.”
The geographical nature of Hawaii is surely an advantage when it comes to keeping the coronavirus at bay, but with tourists forced to take their vacation money elsewhere the island’s economy too a hard hit.
And it came at a time when the industry needed a boost the most.
This isn’t the first time Hawaii has seen the tourism industry hit hard.
In 2018 Kilauea erupted, pouring hot lava over resident’s homes and any chance of visitors, as Proud American Traveler reports.
Just as tourists were beginning to venture to the big island again, deadly helicopter tours left even the most adventurous travelers opting to explore other national paradises.
Even though Hawaii was able to forge a path through these catastrophes to remain a top destination choice for anxious travelers seeking the solace that comes from the colorful flowers and exotic wildlife of the archipelago, new challenges are emerging for post-pandemic life.
“Every day, there is something on the news that announces businesses are shutting down. These are not new business. They are family businesses, they are institutions, and these are businesses that have survived economic challenges in the past,” said Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and chief executive of the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, to The Guardian.
Hawaii has been able to keep their COVID-19 cases at a minimum, but it has come at a high cost.
It was reported that “At least 150,000 workers in the state of 1.5 million people were out of work in May. The unemployment rate was 23.5% – over 10% higher than the national rate.”
Even with all the money being pumped into the economy by the government there, the state will be at a $1.2 billion deficit, according to a report from the University of Hawaii’s Economic Research Organization (UHERO).
Carl Bonham is a professor of economics at the University of Hawaii and executive director of UHERO.
He claims the pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on tourism in relation to other industries, which means it will have a slow rise back into the vacation limelight.
With failing businesses and limited employees at favorite hotels and attractions, it is likely there will be far less eager vacationers to place a lei on- assuming Hawaii can still afford to uphold that tradition upon landing.