Post Covid Predictions for Kona, Hawaii

Right now (July 2020) we are probably (or maybe–I don’t know) about half-way through the great Covide 19 Pandemic of 2020. Many believe we’ll have a vaccine by year’s end. That is the assumption I accept. We have at least five more months of the pandemic affecting nearly every aspect of our lives.

The Good News

We’ve been spared widespread infection because of our mostly rural community. Our state government has effectively shut down all tourism from outside of Hawaii. I also think we’ve done a pretty good job of the big three: social distancing, mask-wearing, and good hygiene. That’s good news. 

The Bad News

Our economy has been devasted. Unemployment in West Hawaii is probably close to 20%. That number is unlikely to decrease much for months. 

There are plans to allow some trans-Pacific tourism in September, but no one believes there will be much change until an effective vaccine is widely available.

What will West Hawaii look like in the post-pandemic (i.e, after the vaccine) world?

  1. Many businesses will have failed long before that time. This has created significant unemployment, empty rental spaces, and defaults on loans.
  2. Tourism and the local economy will return very slowly. One thing we’ve seen during the pandemic is much higher savings rates. People are scared to spend–and this will continue for some time. 
  3. Many of the businesses that do survive in the tourism sector will be marginally viable at best due to a very slow and gradual resumption in tourists visiting the islands.
  4. Many of the workers in the tourism sector, especially those without strong ties to the island, will leave the island. They will seek greener pastures elsewhere.
  5. Our state and country government will have to find ways to deal with massive shortfalls in revenue. 
  6. We’ll see greater social disorder, including crime, homelessness, domestic violence, hunger,  etc. as the economic strains bear down on individuals and families. There will be more need for public assistance programs, including food distribution.
  7. There will be some innovation in what we do and how we do it because of the lessons learned from the pandemic. More telework and distance learning will become normalized. We’ll probably all have much better hygiene and cleaning rituals–a good thing!
  8. We’ll continue to talk a lot about self-sufficiency and moving away from a tourism-dependent economy. Nothing will be done that will create big, lasting changes. Tourism is just too lucrative compared to the alternatives.
  9. It’ll take some time for people to feel comfortable around people again. Right now, everyone is a suspect Covid carrier. It’s going to take some time before gyms, churches, clubs, sports, and social gatherings become part of our lives again.
  10. There will be some renewal and revival in our economy. New businesses will come in, and we’ll see some innovative startups. After the destruction will come renewal. In this process, we’ll see a lot of opportunity for forward-looking and creative entrepreneurs.