Resilience in the Face of Adversity – Covid 19 and Hawaii

It’s hard to be positive these days about Hawaii’s economy, and more specifically, Kona’s economy. I saw last weekend that the unemployment rate was 13% overall for Hawaii. I imagine it is close to 20% for the tourism-driven economy of West Hawaii. A walk down Alii Drive, our main tourist shop area, will show “For Lease” after “For Lease” signs on many storefronts. Few businesses are open, and the ones that are, are not doing well. Like tourism or not, it is the primary driver of our economy.

When I started this post, I had “Optimism in the Face of Adversity” as my title. I quickly realized that we’re way beyond finding optimism–there isn’t much to find these days. Resilience or perseverance is what we need to right now.

The Bad News

If you’re in a tourism-dependent business, now is a time that will test your resolve to move forward. The fact is, we’ll not see any meaningful tourism for at least 5-6 months, maybe more. If you have high fixed costs like rent, vehicle loans, or other debt, it’s probably time to look at ways to hang on through negotiating with your landlord and banks. Deciding to throw in the towel and move on might be the best choice. If your fixed costs are low, you’re in a great position to be here when the tourists return.

Two Scenarios

Two scenarios are likely when tourism returns. If we still have a huge number of tourism businesses–manta snorkel tours, island van tours, restaurants, etc–these will be competing for a piece of a very, very small piece of the pie. If we see a massive reduction in viable tourism business (which I believe we are), we’ll see fewer businesses competing for fewer tourists. The economic pie will be small, but each company will be able to have a bigger slice. 

For most businesses like Kona Impact, we are seeing a decrease in our economy’s vitality. e all know, it’s hard to zig when the economy is zagging. We’re all connected in some way or another, so what’s bad for my neighbor or the guy down the street, has to affect everyone else’s livelihood as well. At Kona Impact, parts of our business have decreased, but we are fortunate to have a reasonably diverse set of revenue streams. We’re doing better than most.

What Can You Do?

Here are a few things we’ve done as part of our resilience plan:

  1. Used the downtime to work on our marketing plans and materials. We completely re-did our website and have made several new sets of marketing collateral.
  2. Focused on prospecting. We have a highly developed database of West Hawaii business and we have mined that to do some very targeted marketing.
  3. Reach out to existing customers. We’ve worked with hundreds of West Hawaii businesses over the years. We will soon be mining our database to reach out to “old” customers
  4. Learn new skills. We are working on certifications for Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising as well as spending some time learning new software.
  5. Maintenance of equipment and cleaning. Our machines are very “well oiled” now and our shelves and files are organized. 
  6. Refreshing and relaxing. Now is a great time to take some time to go for a hike, play a round of golf, or spend a day in the garden or at the beach. If you generally lead a stressful business life, spend some time nurturing your mind and body.

Last winter I wrote one of my favorite quotes on our whiteboard: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” Henry Ford. I haven’t found anything I’d like to replace it with right now.