Mufi's Message - August 24, 2021
Yesterday saw several announcements that will present challenges for our industry. In press conferences and media appearances yesterday, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi cancelled all large events spanning the next four weeks and Governor David Ige urged all nonessential travel to cease. Mayor Blangiardi's declaration really came as no surprise as it aligns the City & County of Honolulu with the State's current COVID-19 mitigation efforts. The Governor’s expressed desire is much more complicated and confusing.
In statements that I have made, I noted that the Governor's request to our prospective travelers was not a mandate or executive order and does not carry the force of law. It is our position that there is a safe way for travel to continue, and the data backs this up as an extremely low number of COVID-19 cases have been tied to tourists. We have concerns that his request will discourage mindful, responsible travelers from coming here, but it will not stop the extractive, opportunistic tourists that we are looking to avoid. Moreover, we are heading into a shoulder season in September and October where leisure travel to Hawai'i will inevitably decrease by double digits. And, we have yet to experience any international travel or meetings, incentives, and conventions which is critically important for a robust and sustainable tourism recovery.
These things considered, I am coordinating a meeting with Gov. Ige and his team with a coalition of private businesses, community organizations, labor unions, trade associations, and visitor industry stakeholders to discuss options that we can take as a state to strike a balance between public health and safety that will, hopefully, assuage some of the Governor's concerns and will keep our economy open. This is the same coalition that supported his veto of House Bill 862.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser ran an article Saturday that discussed the current reluctance by many businesses to require vaccination for their employees. The piece reported the results of a recent survey that found that more than half (57%) of respondents said they would not mandate vaccination for their workers. While the hospitality industry has led the way in employee vaccination, there is still much room for progress across the entire business sector. As it has been shown again and again, vaccination is our single most effective means of stopping the COVID-19 virus and the highly transmissible Delta variant.
Over the past 48 hours, there have been numerous developments that I am hopeful will increase the likelihood of people getting vaccinated and of businesses requiring vaccination. Perhaps most notably, the FDA has granted full approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination. This has been a major talking point of those opposed to vaccination, and will undoubtedly soothe anxiety for some who have been hesitant to be vaccinated due to its emergency use authorization. Additionally, the CDC released a new report today that found that unvaccinated individuals are 29.2 times as likely to be hospitalized as vaccinated people. This is a staggering new finding that highlights both the efficacy and importance of COVID-19 vaccination.
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