COVID-19 island warnings prompt cancellations | News, Sports, Jobs

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Wedding planners and other local businesses offering activities, events and tours are seeing more cancellations as state and county officials urge visitors not to come and residents to avoid large rallies amid spike in COVID-19 cases. Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Maui businesses have already started seeing a drop in bookings, sales and bookings since public authorities asked residents and visitors to voluntarily limit non-essential activities to curb the increase in COVID-19 cases to Hawaii.

Recently, Gov. David Ige told visitors now is not a good time to visit Hawaii, while Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino asked at a press conference that companies consider reinstating work from home when possible and visitors stay at their hotel or resort properties.

“Customers have definitely canceled due to the imposed changes. I think people are particularly frustrated and concerned that policies will continue to change, affecting their ability to implement the plans they have made ”, said Tori Rogers of Celebrations by Tori. “Many have already rescheduled last year and have waited a year to celebrate, so the instability is a bit scary.”

Celebrations by Tori has been coordinating events such as birthdays, weddings, mitzvahs, showers, graduation parties and more for over 20 years in Hawaii, but now with major changes.

Now, almost two years after the start of a pandemic, Rogers said “Small businesses are suffering” as they try to survive while adhering to all health and safety policies and regulations.

A kayaking tour departs from the Olowalu coast in February. Some travel agencies, which have already been affected in the early months of the pandemic, are seeing cancellations again as uncertainty grows over restrictions and the increase in COVID-19 cases. Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“It’s not that we don’t get inquiries. It’s that there is so much uncertainty as to what we can and cannot do ”, she said Tuesday night. “How can we continue to lose money from constant change and stay in business, support our families and pay our bills? It is difficult to plan anything with our clients due to constantly changing policies and procedures.

While there is public backlash on the ability of large companies to host large events, their company supports local employees and small vendors who depend on event and entertainment venues for their income.

“Florists order flowers that cannot be returned, so they lose money. Caterers and restaurants lose money on food orders ”, Rogers said. “Travel arrangements are made which are not reimbursed. Sellers who relied on revenue from reservations can no longer do so due to cancellations.

“Just when it looks like it’s getting better, we’re backing down again.”

Maui Chamber of Commerce President Pamela Tumpap said that many industries that were able to function during the pandemic, such as construction, health care, grocery stores, etc. “Most difficult points” in the pandemic and are generally still doing well as the pandemic continues.

However, the companies that were “More directly related to the visitor industry suffered significant losses and many did not achieve the recovery from March to July this year”, Tumpap said.

Visitor arrivals to Maui have increased almost every month since travel reopened last fall, although September and October, typically the slowest months for tourism, are expected to be much lower.

Since messages from Ige and Victorino last week regarding the increase in the number of cases due to the delta variant and hospital capacities, Tumpap said on Wednesday evening that “Calls have been received from members worried about another shutdown and hoping the governor has a plan to fix them for the quick cancellations they see.”

“They are looking for tax breaks or subsidies to compensate for the losses suffered”, she said.

Tropical Maui Weddings, a long-time family owned and operated business, had suffered “a lot of cancellations” when the pandemic first hit the island in 2019, but only recently since government updates last week.

As long as no further restrictions are imposed, Makawao wedding planners no longer anticipate cancellations from residents or destination guests.

“Everyone is nervous about what (Mayor Victorino) said; we are still trying to hold on ”, said event organizer Sherron Lawrence, also the daughter of owners Jamie and Lori. “Our numbers are way lower than they were and we’re still trying to recover from the first shutdown, so we’re just hoping we can stay in business. If department stores and big box stores can operate safely, so can we. “

Tropical Maui Weddings offers services ranging from pre and post wedding activity planning, venue selection, transportation, decorating consultation, catering and more.

Inquiries and reservations with wedding planners mimicked a “Russian mountains” according to current guidelines and updates from officials, what is being said in the news or what the community is discussing.

“We used to get a few a day and now we get one every two days or every week” Lawrence said Tuesday. “It affects our business, I think. “

Couples who are getting married in the next two months have already postponed and delayed their big day several times since 2019 or 2020, so “If they can potentially organize their wedding in any capacity, even if it means cutting their guests in half, they will” she added.

Coordination through Tropical Maui Weddings or other companies allows for a professionally run event with additional security measures, she said, as opposed to an out-of-control party.

Other small businesses and locally operated tourism and entertainment companies have reported during the pandemic that they can no longer afford to shut down or tighten the rules – they are already operating with limited capacity and with health procedures. and security.

Hana and Beyond, a father-son travel agency, owned and operated locally for over 30 years, has seen a significant drop in sales, bookings and cancellations on a daily basis.

“We understand the policies and restrictions and do our best to comply with safety guidelines and restrictions” said owner Charlie Ahuna, who was born and raised in Hana. “We will strive to take care of our employees, our community and our guests. If things continue at this rate, many small businesses will suffer greatly. “

Many visitors inform Hana and Beyond that they have heard Ige’s messages regarding COVID-19 policies for Hawaii announced in their home state via the news and advertisements, and decide to cancel their trip.

Other reasons deterring customers include posts on social media platforms announcing to tourists “Stay away from Hawaii”, Ahuna said on Wednesday.

With the combination of COVID-19 protocols and the number of cases, some companies have considered voluntary shutdowns, but “They are also waiting for updates from the government”, Tumpap said.

“Others have reduced their operations, such as fewer tours, shorter hours, more employees working from home again”, she added.

Fleetwoods in Lahaina, for example, announced Sunday on Facebook that it would voluntarily close until Friday to help curb the spread of COVID-19, claiming it is “the safest decision for the safety of our ohana (and) guests.”

“With COVID cases on the rise for an extended period and now at an all time high, all can see that something needs to be done and recognize that the warrants are coming” Tumpap said. “We also have to face the harsh reality, based on the number of cases, that the spread and increase in cases is mainly coming from residents through the spread and community gatherings – with visitors making up a very small percentage. – and the activities that fuel the spread harm us all. . “

* Dakota Grossman can be contacted at [email protected]

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