(BIVN) – The plunge in visitor arrivals to the Big Island – and the dramatic economic impacts – due to the COVID-19 pandemic were discussed this week at the Hawaiʻi County Council.
Ross Birch, the Executive Director of the Island of Hawaiʻi Visitors Bureau, gave a presentation – through video conference – that used various charts and graphs to illustrate how unemployment numbers skyrocketed when tourism to Hawaiʻi island came to a halt.
“Its been quite a wild ride that we’ve had, especially in tourism,” Birch said, adding that the situation is unprecedented, “beyond anything we’ve ever seen from a tourism standpoint.”
Birch said the industry’s number one focus is the mitigation of COVID-19, because they “have to get to a stopping area before we can start again.”
On one of the last slides of his presentation, Birch offered the following “prognostications” on what he thinks will happen next, from a tourism standpoint, in his personal opinion.
- Drive to destinations will see first visitors
- Travelers will be attracted less congested destinations (avoid large cities)
- Locations with lesser COVID- 19 cases and strong processes in place will do better
- Need precautions in place at airports and airlines
- Hawai’ i Island Hotels will remain closed through May
- Previous bookings for July on are strong
- Group’ s scheduled for March —June moved to Fall or 2021
- Airlines will ramp up slowly with limited flights through end of June (Airlines received an exemption from the CARES Act for Kona, Lihue & Kahului)
- Initial price point for airfare and accommodations needs to be very competitive
- Travel demand is still strong including Hawaii as a destination
- Create unique experiences allowing social distancing
- Promote small group activities