Hawaii short-term rentals remain on hold for virus recovery

KAILUA-KONA — Hawaii County has processed nearly all of its short-term vacation rental applications, but it could be months before the units are allowed to operate as a result of the coronavirus.

The Hawaii County Planning Department completed its review of applications for about 4,000 units received after implementation of a mandatory registration system last year, West Hawaii Today reported.

But under emergency health restrictions issued by the state in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the rentals can be used only to house tenants who were already there when the restrictions went into effect or workers for essential businesses or operations, such as first responders.

Vacation rental occupancy statewide was 5% in April, the first month after Democratic Gov. David Ige’s March 26 mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers.

Hotels that were allowed to remain open had an occupancy rate of 8.9%, according to data provided by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Ige held a video conference with county mayors last week that included discussion of reopening short-term rentals statewide. Some mayors indicated a preference for the rentals to remain closed, especially in residential areas.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell estimated there are 800 legal vacation rentals on Oahu and another 8,000 operating illegally.

“As we come back to new normal, (they) should be in resort areas and not in our neighborhoods,” Caldwell said.

Maui Mayor Mike Victorino said he would like to keep visitors in the resort areas of his county without “utilizing our residential facilities.” Hotels and resorts should open first and reestablish themselves, he said.

“We have a large number of illegal vacation rentals, and many are closing them down,” Victorino said.

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said his planning department is working with police and the National Guard to ensure transient rentals are not taking tenants.

Hawaii Mayor Harry Kim said he did not believe short term rentals will be allowed to open soon.

“Yes, we need tourism. Yes, they’re a basic economic industry here. But everyone should know, this is our home,” Kim said. “Our priority is the safety of the people in the state. Everything else has to come second.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.

  1. Peter June 2, 2020 3:41 am Reply

    So far in 2020 there have been 29 deaths from traffic fatalities in Hawaii and 17 deaths from Covid19.
    If your priority is the safety of the people of the state shouldn’t you be closing down all roads also ?!?

  2. Loladog June 2, 2020 6:57 pm Reply

    Yes, close the roads, or open the economy. Woof! Roll down the car window.!

  3. Jeff S. June 3, 2020 6:23 pm Reply

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to allow people to rent out their homes or condo’s first before hotels? In my mind, it seems that there would be a higher likelihood of transmitting any virus in a hotel, when you’re touching things (elevator buttons, door handles, check in counters, etc) that several other people have also touched. Many condo’s don’t have elevators so the only person that should be using your door handle to enter the room/house is the people that are staying there. It make sense to me, unless I’m missing out on something other than the obvious that hotels bring in more money for the state.

  4. Joe Martin June 5, 2020 2:50 pm Reply

    Common sense says that most hotels are much less safe then most vacation rentals in most cases.
    Elevators have big concern because if you put many people in a small space or if you have a long line of waiting and so for this and seeing and long periods of time where people are converged

    Interaction with local Community such as front desk,bellhops, concierge, restaurants, swimming pool, gyms, jacuzzi, sauna, reception areas of those major health risk for our local community

    Anything that has central air conditioning air movement systems will be supporting the spread of covid 19 virus. This fact presents a problem especially for hotel hallways- the virus can be sustained for up to 30 minutes in the air system. Each unit should have exterior private entrances with no central access.
    Each unit should be completely isolated in terms of your air from each other unit

    Being in a room that is being cleaned daily by a housekeeper is traveling from room to room through each hallway of a large facility would not be in compliance with safety practices regarding the spread through with 19

    A better practice would be complete isolation for him from cleaning staff for personnel during the stay of a tourist.

    If we really looking to basic common sense most hotels are a breeding ground for the spread of the virus where as Vacation rentals units that have private entrances and self checkin /Check out with no contact for locals offer the most health security for visitors.

    Not following the above common sense would not only be foolish but should have legal consequences for those who violate commonsense Safety practices and promote unsafe Environments for our tourists.

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