Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism director Mike McCartney and Outrigger Hotels and Resorts President & CEO, Jeff Wagoner joined Spotlight Hawaii to discuss reopening transpacific travel. Both expressed optimism in the October 15th launch of Hawaii’s pre-arrival testing program.
“We’ve been working hard to operationalize it, to make sure the pieces are in place,” McCartney said. “There’s gonna be maybe a few kinks but we’ll do just continuous improvement and continuous communication to the visitor, the traveler, the resident. And the key to all this is, we want our employees to feel safe, we want our guests to feel safe, we want the community to feel safe, and then everybody can have a good experience here.”
After months of closure, leading to furloughs and layoffs, Wagoner said that he and his colleagues throughout Hawaii’s hospitality industry are eager to get back to business.
“We think the industry is ready in a big way,” Wagoner said. He said reservations for his company’s properties are up 30% with the announcement of the state’s reopening, but are still substantially off compared to a year ago. Wagoner said hotels have strict sanitation protocols in place, both for guests and hotel workers, and that employees have told him they want to get back to work.
“It’s important to us that this happens the right way. We got one shot at this. And if it goes south on us, it’s not going to be good for any of us, not the residents or the industry in general,” he said.
Both men agreed that tourism in Hawaii look different in months and years to come.
“I don’t know that we’re going back to 10 and a half million visitors ever. I think what’s important to us that people who come here respect what we have in Hawaii,” Wagoner said. “What we don’t want is our communities overrun with tourists so that people feel uncomfortable even when they go home at night. So I think you’re going to see a very different landscape going forward that people are going to feel a lot better about.”
“This is a reset, not a restart. And so we’re setting something new. And so how we reopen, with the values and principles of reopening will manifest themself in the ultimate product that we deliver years from now. So this time and moment in Hawaii’s history is very, very important because we have a chance to chart out our future,” he said.
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation with guests. Click here to watch previous conversations.