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Protests held at airports over tourism arrivals

Residents protest outside of Molokai Airport on Wednesday morning. WALTER RITTE photo

The Maui News

Maui County resorts were booming in February, a month before the effects of the coronavirus pandemic racked the tourism industry statewide, a Hawaii Tourism Authority report released Wednesday showed.

Revenue per available room in the county rose 11.2 percent over 2019 to $391 with average daily room rates up 9.8 percent to $480, the report showed. Occupancy was up 1.1 percentage point to 81.5 percent.

The luxury resort region of Wailea topped the state in room revenue of $628 up 7.4 percent, room rates of $705, up 8.7 percent and occupancy of 89 percent, which actually was down 1.1 percentage points.

The Lahaina/Kaanapali/Kapalua region also logged substantial increases in February with room revenue up 11.2 percent to $324, room rates up 8.8 percent to $400 and occupancy of 81.1 percent, up 1.8 percentage points.

The “Other Maui County” resorts logged revenue of $474, up 10.6 percent, room rates of $578, up 10.4 percent, and occupancy of 82 percent, level with last February.

March will not be as rosy with the impacts of the coronavirus taking hold with cancellations and Gov. David Ige effectively telling potential visitors to stay away until the situation stabilizes. An economist forecast tourist numbers to fall 10 percent this year in Maui County, following multiple years of record-breaking arrivals.

Meanwhile, protests against arrivals of visitors — and their potentially infecting locals with the coronavirus — have cropped up at Kahului and Molokai airports this week. Two of the three positive cases of coronavirus as of Wednesday involve visitors.

“Maui is closed” is the message proffered by the protesters, who say they are not organized but gather based on social media posts. They say that while Ige urged state employees to restrict nonessential travel Tuesday, online ticket companies continue to market discounted flights and hotel packages to Maui.

“It’s time for the community to step up and protect our kupuna and most vulnerable. If our government will not, we have no choice but to make it clear, right now visitors are not welcome,” said Kaena Elaban in the news release by the protesters.

A protest at Molokai Airport on Wednesday morning drew about 50 people. They held signs saying “tourists stay home” and “Protect our Moloka’i.”

‘Aha Kiole o Moloka’i said: “Travelers, vacationers and visitors: Don’t come right now. Please come back when it has been determined by our health officials that we are all at a safer place and time.”

Protests will be ongoing at Kahului Airport near the access road traffic light, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Friday, the news release said.

Social media posts are telling people to practice social distancing, to stay 10-plus feet apart from others, and not to honi, hug or touch other attendees, the news release said.

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