LIHUE — Damage from recent flooding and landslides has made some tourists wary about vacationing on the Garden Isle. With impassable roads and closed bridges, many visitor accommodations are no longer available and some of the most popular sites remain inaccessible.
“Would-be visitors have been calling the Chamber of Commerce non-stop following this weekend’s flooding and asking if they should cancel their trip,” said Chamber President and CEO Mark Perriello. “Everyone should check directly with their accommodations before traveling. With some exceptions, Kauai is open for business, including Hanalei.”
Perriello said chamber members report that some visitors are canceling trips, but more are electing to reschedule their visit.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority and Kauai Visitors Bureau, along with multiple agencies and organizations, are in assessment mode to determine strategies to accommodate island visitors.
“We’ve had a few cancellations on tours,” said Sue Kanoho, executive director for Kauai Visitors Bureau. “I haven’t had any significant calls that people have lost a whole month’s business yet.”
For the time being, the Visitors Bureau has put some of its promotions on hold.
“It would be a little inappropriate to say it’s only one side of the island and doesn’t affect anyone else,” Kanoho said. “The rest of the island is in fact open, but we want to be sensitive to the people who are suffering as well.”
The assessment and future plans may change as repairs are being made to important roadways, like Kuhio Highway and Wailua Bridge.
“We’re letting people know which areas were affected and making sure that they stay out of that area for the time being, because it’s not accessible,” Kanoho said.
“People hear that the island is devastated and may not understand the areas affected, so we’re clarifying that for them,” Kanoho said. “We want to make sure everybody is rechecking to ensure there hasn’t been damage in that exact area.”
Richard and Suzun Cruser will be visiting soon from Walnut Creek near San Francisco. They have visited Kauai almost every year for the past 30 years.
“I was on Kauai just after Iniki and was very favorably impressed with the aloha spirit of locals,” Richard Cruser said. “We will continue to visit Kauai, for sure.”
The couple will be staying in Princeville for two weeks during their vacation but did check with management ahead of time.
“Visitors who had reservations in Hanalei and beyond are having to make some major adjustments to their plans,” Richard Cruser said. “Maybe some of the larger resorts could offer alternate rates and accommodations as a promotion.”
He believes that checking the weather most relevant to arrival plans will increase in importance, and that climate crisis is forcing vacation planning into new challenges everywhere.
Kanoho said people should confirm travel plans.
“With AirBnB, VRBO and all that, I can’t speak to every single accommodation on the island to say it’s OK,” she said.
The Visitors Bureau also sent out a statement to travel trade providers to keep them informed.
“We really want to make sure the area is secured and people are handled the way they need to be, and later we’ll talk with HTA and HVCB (Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau) and work that out,” Kanoho said.