Visitor demand has dropped at the Polynesian Cultural Center since concern over the global spread of the coronavirus has ramped up. However, the decision was mostly based on the nonprofit’s desire to support the policies of Brigham Young University-Hawaii, which supplies its student employees.
Alfred Grace, president and CEO, stated, “We know this is disappointing news and ask for everyone’s understanding. The decision to close was made to help protect the health and safety of our guests and employees.”
“In the wake of COVID-19, universities around the world, including BYUH, are moving to online study to minimize large group gatherings until the threat subsides. In support of BYUH’s policy, and in an abundance of caution to protect our employees and guests, we have taken this unprecedented move to close the Center,” Grace said.
The center will refund or reschedule guests who have purchased tickets directly. Customers who purchased tickets through an outside vendor will need to contact the supplier directly to receive a refund.
Along with the closure, PCC is canceling its 2nd annual AgDay on March 23, and the 28th annual World Fireknife Championship, May 6-9.
However, the neighboring Hukilau Marketplace, including Pounders Restaurant, will continue to remain open and serve customers during the closure period.
The center, which opened in 1963, generally hosts about 1.3 million visitors a year and is a top visitor industry employer. The center, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was not able to provide an immediate response to the Star-Advertiser’s request for comment about how the shutdown will impact its employees and missionary volunteers.
Bill Kunstman, a spokesman for the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, said the agency has not been notified of any other business shutdowns.
“It’s unfortunate, I know they are a large employer for the windward side and North Shore,” Kunstman said.
Kunstman said DLIR reported to the House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness on Thursday that there had been an increase in claims since the beginning of March. Through Wednesday, the department saw a roughly 19% increase in unemployment claims for the week and expects more, Kunstman said.
“There does appear to be a significant uptick. We are still only in the middle of March, but from what we’ve been seeing from the numbers certainly looks like number of people in the labor force are going down in large part because of the number of claims,” he said.
PCC’s plans for its workers haven’t been made clear. Speaking in general terms, Kunstman said workers can file full unemployment claims if they are laid off or partial unemployment claims if they still work somewhere but have lost hours.
PCC’s shutdown, which comes as President Donald Trump declares a national emergency over the coronavirus, follows news of many other Hawaii closures, cancellations and postponements. More disruptions are expected, but so far, here is smattering of some of the higher-profile ones:
>> Special Olympics Hawaii announced today that it will postpone this weekend’s Tip a Cop fundraiser
>> The Merrie Monarch Festival, which was to run from April 12 to 18, has been canceled.
>> The University of Hawaii, which has 10 campuses, has announced that it will switch to online classes after spring break.
>> The Honolulu Marathon Association postponed the Hapalua, half marathon, until September.
>> Hawaii Tourism Authority already had announced that it wouldn’t bring the Los Angeles Clippers to Hawaii this year and in late January postponed a China Summit.
>> Organizers of the 13th Festival of the Pacific Arts & Culture, or FESTPAC, postponed the June event. It’s not known how many attendees it would have brought this summer, but the event drew 90,000 to Guam when it was held there in 2016.
>> The Honolulu Festival Foundation canceled its annual festival, which had been slated for March 6-8.
>> Mariah Carey’s March 10 concert has been rescheduled for Nov. 28.