HONOLULU, Hawaii (AP) — Hawaii’s communities that survived the demise of plantations by transforming into tourist destinations are struggling as the coronavirus pandemic keeps away visitors.
The newly formed Paia Community Association estimates 40% of the Maui town’s 71 shops and restaurants are either temporarily or permanently shuttered in the community on the island’s north shore, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday.
Health restrictions including a 14-day mandatory quarantine for visitors arriving from outside the state have crippled the tourism industry that accounts for about 25% of Hawaii’s economy.
The Paia economy that previously relied on the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. had already moved toward boutiques, restaurants and galleries when the company’s mill closed in 2000.
Without visitors and shoppers clogging Paia’s sidewalks, streets and parking lots, vagrants have become more prevalent, residents and business owners said.
In Koloa on Kauai, where Hawaii’s first large-scale sugar plantation was established in 1835, The Beall Corp. owns Old Koloa Town, a collection of historic plantation-era buildings.
A handful of Old Koloa Town’s 19 shops and restaurants have closed and the company is working with tenants on rent relief.
“Ninety-five percent of our projects rely on tourism, and I don’t see there being any replacement of that. We’re more or less in a hold-your-breath situation until tourism returns,” President Cory Beall said.
Jerry Vigil, owner of Emperor’s Emporium at Old Koloa Town, said his shop rang up $55,000 in sales of clothing and other items in July 2019. Last month’s total was $1,900.
There is no formal business association in Koloa, where the local sugar plantation closed in 1996. Such a group would not make a difference at the moment, Vigil said.
“There’s little to be done as long as there are no tourists,” he said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
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