LIHU‘E — Mayor Derek Kawakami participated in a five-person-panel, Zoom discussion Tuesday, “Restarting Hawai‘i’s Tourism Industry.”
The panel also included John De Fries, CEO of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority; Sherry Menor-McNamara, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai‘i; Pono Shim, president of the O‘ahu Economic Development Board; and state Sen. Glenn Wakai, chair of the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Technology Committee.
During the segment, the panelists were asked to forecast the future of Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i tourism.
The tourism industry is down considerably from the 2019 fiscal year.
HTA statistics show a total of 22,344 visitors traveled to Hawai‘i by air in August 2020 compared to 926,417 visitors during the same month in 2019.
Menor-McNamara doesn’t anticipate a sizable increase when the 14-day, mandatory quarantine is lifted in mid-October.
“We aren’t going to see a surge of visitors coming to Hawai‘i, which is going back to personal responsibility and that everyone does their part if there is a surge,” Menor-McNamara said. “I am sure that will prevent and change the minds of many of the visitors who put an emphasis on health and safety. That is what it will take to become a safe place to visit.”
Menor-McNamara said she felt Hawai‘i is in a state of transition and will have to focus on creating other industries so the state isn’t as dependent on tourism to sustain a sturdy economy.
“We are a crossroads, and this is a defining moment for Hawai‘i visitors,” Menor-McNamara said. “This highlights the need to look at other industries and focus on economic diversification.”
Kawakami focused on Kaua‘i, and promoting the island to a specific market because of the emphasis on safety as Hawai‘i moves closer to re-opening to mainland travelers.
“We can’t compete with islands like Maui or O‘ahu as far as volume,” Kawakami said. “For visitors, they want to come to a place where they are safe and healthy, and these measures of inconvenience (to travelers) are only temporary.”
Kawakami said Kaua‘i aims to market itself towards a demographic of wealthy visitors. “We don’t want to be a budget destination,” Kawakami said. “We want to offer that premium experience to people who can co-exist with our way of life.”
Jason Blasco, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.