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Major Hawaii Tourist Attractions Shift Gears In Pandemic


The lack of visitors to Hawaii continues to drain local businesses. That includes some major attractions, such as Dole Plantation and Kualoa Ranch. Jobs have been cut, other adjustments have been made — and an uncertain future lies ahead.

Last year, Dole Plantation welcomed just under 2 million visitors. It’s been closed since March, and director of operations Mike Moon says it’s likely to stay closed until the end of quarantine rules for visitors. Since just 3% of its guests are Hawaii residents, it didn’t make sense to open after the first stay-at-home orders ended. Dole’s usual staff of 75 has been reduced to five, who maintain the property.

Dole also partnered with H&W Foodservice and other vendors to host a series of bulk food sales for Hawaii families at discounted prices.

Kualoa Ranch did reopen in June at a greatly reduced pace, bringing in 200 people a day for ATV tours, horseback riding and ziplining. That’s about a 90% reduction from its normal visitor count — more than 700,000 per year. Tourism is Kualoa Ranch’s main driver of sales, so revenue is also down 90%. Its usual staff of 370 was cut to 70 after its Paycheck Protection Program funding was exhausted. Tours are suspended during Oahu’s current lockdown and plans are to reopen when that’s lifted.

The attraction doing the best is Wet’n’Wild Hawaii. The Kapolei waterpark draws a local crowd and after reopening with new safety procedures at the end of May, daily visitors shot up from 300 to 2,000. General manager Jerry Pupillo says the low end of that range is comparable to a typical weekday in the off-season. However, the park is closed entirely under Oahu’s current shutdown order.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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