Kona, Hawaii’s economy has been hit very hard by State and County’s response to the COVID pandemic. We’re somewhere around 16% unemployment in Hawaii County, which I would presume is higher in the tourism-dependent Kona region. Many businesses have closed, and many are operating at only a fraction of capacity. Tourism is down about 99%. That’s the bad news.

Now for some good news!

Start of Tourism

The Governor has announced that tourists will be able to come to Hawaii and not have a mandatory 14-day quarantine from October 15 as long as they have a negative COVID test within three days of departure. Since we have had an effective ban on tourism for six months, a restart of tourism is desperately needed for our economy. There is no news on inter-island travel, but I suspect we’ll have a better ability to travel to neighbor islands without the quarantine soon.

This will:

  1. Allow hotels to re-open and get the maintenance, housekeeping, restaurant and hopsitality staff back to work.
  2. Those who own vacation rentals will see some revenue.
  3. Transportation businesses, including rideshare, will be able to get back into business.
  4. Tour companies will restart.
  5. Restaurants will be able to increase revenue.
  6. The tourist shops in downtown Kona–those that remain–can look forward to some business
  7. All affiliated businesses–grocery, mechanics, masseuses, ect, will see increased revenue
  8. Real estate, which has been booming, might continue this trend with more on-island visitors.

Tourism is the elephant in the room for our economy, so the start of that will, gradually, raise the level of economic activity for almost everyone.

New Developments Coming Online

The retail space between Palani and Henry Street is expected to open soon.

The land South of Costco has been subdivided and available for sale.

New Businesses Starting

Safeway will be moving to its new location in October.

Great Days Services is now offering property inspection and maintenance services.

Hawaii Jiu Jitsu Academy on Alapa Street is now open.

Hawaii Island Humane Society is getting closer to opening its wonderful new facilities in Keauhou.

New Opportunities

Close to Kona Impact’s office, the Singer Sewing Center is moving, creating more large retail/commercial space fronting Queen Kaahumanu Highway. The sofa shop next door has gone out of business, and, with BikeWorks relocating, there is a lot of prime space available.

Alii Drive retail space has been decimated, with Alley Gecko’s, the San Francisco Coffee Shop, a popular jewelry shop and many other spaces now vacant. While it’s sad to see some of the stalwarts of that area gone, there is plenty of new opportunity in that area for future-oriented businesses.

New Political Leadership

We will be seeing some new leadership at the County level. My hope is that whomever is elected, the Kona side will get more attention and resources in the future.

It probable (at this point at least) that we’ll see a major shift in our national leadership, too. Good or bad for Kona, Hawaii? I have no idea.

The end of the COVID pandemic?

By almost all accounts, we’ll have an effective vaccine for COVID available to most people in Q1 or Q2 of 2021.

We’ve Learned Some New Tricks

Because of all the trials and tribulations of 2020, we’ve all learned some new ways of doing business. For example, One dive shop we know has pivoted from taking tourists on scuba charters to providing locals with skin diving and free diving products and instruction. In addition, Kona’s kids have learned that they can learn on their own, outside of a teacher-directed classroom. Many have spent hours upon hours doing Zoom meetings. Many, like Kona Impact, have had to scramble for inventory and identify new suppliers.

Kona Impact Looks Forward

I always say that entrepreneurs are some of the most optimistic people in the world. If we didn’t believe strongly in a better future, we wouldn’t be starting, sustaining and growing businesses.

We see the next six months as a time of renewal for our economy. Many who have an idea for a business will be able to get in the game now because of the availability of retail, office and industrial space. Some who have lost their jobs will retrain and come back stronger than ever. This is how economies work: an ebb and flow, ups and downs. 

Kona Impact is looking forward to being part of this economic renewal and helping businesses grown in 2020, 2021 and beyond.