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Halekulani hotel exec talks renovations and returning guests

Halekulani's House Without A Key
Halekulani's House Without A Key

For the past 18 months, the Halekulani hotel has been shuttered for renovations.

Gov. David Ige earlier this week said it was safe for domestic travelers to come to Hawaiʻi again after telling visitors not to come in late August due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.

With the new announcement, the historic Waikīkī hotel is positioned to welcome guests.

Halekulani Corp.'s chief operating officer, Peter Shaindlin, says the hotel quietly reopened its doors this month but is already seeing interest with strong bookings going into the holidays.

"Since the time of his initial announcement on Aug. 23, the phones went silent and then they lit up with cancellations for the fourth quarter," Shaindlin said. "And so with the situation it's left us is that October, November — November is the most challenging — and Christmas bookings are quite strong right now the second half of December, which tells you that people are cautiously optimistic."

International travelers may also return, and there is optimism as Japan's COVID vaccination rate has ramped up. But Shaindlin says Japanese visitors still face challenges when returning home from a trip abroad.

"There are very few people in a situation that can return after taking a vacation from work there, they can take another 10 days off when they go back," Shaindlin said. "That's the current challenge."

Halekulani had planned a major renovation of the hotel during 2020.

"We were faced with this dilemma of waiting and doing the renovation eventually after COVID left, but with hindsight being 20/20, I think we were right in our sense that COVID would be a very protracted experience, unfortunately," Shaindlin said. "And so it allowed us to do necessary work to the hotel that was overdue for some time, and now allows us to open with our most competitive product ever."

This interview originally aired on The Conversationon Oct. 21, 2021.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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