Two COVID Scenarios For Businesses in Hawaii – Pollyanna and Disaster

It’s now early September, 2020 and there seems to be some light at the end of the 2020 COVID pandemic tunnel. The CDC and other sources have indicated that we might be able to begin vaccinations in early November. That’s the first good news we’ve heard in months.

I am an optimist by nature, but I can also be incredibly circumspect of the future. Here are my Pollyanna (naively overly optimistic) and my disaster scenarios when I look to the future of business in Hawaii the next year.

Worst-case scenario

  1. We don’t have an effective vaccine until 2021. 
  2. Most “non-essential” people cannot a vaccine until mid-2021 (or later)
  3. The State of Hawaii maintains its effective ban on tourism until travelers can prove their vaccinated status.
  4. The State and County continue business restrictions indefinitely.
  5. Travelers don’t return to Hawaii until mid-year
  6. Our economy continues to tank.
  7. Vacancies increase in commercial and retail spaces
  8. Our Kona unemployment rate stays about 20%.
  9. Our State and County revenue continues to plummet.

Pollyanna Scenario

  1. A proven vaccine is approved in November.
  2. There are sufficient amounts for many “non-essential” people to become vaccinated in December. Anyone who wants the vaccine can be inoculated by the end of January.
  3. The State of Hawaii opens tourism to anyone with proof of vaccination in December.
  4. Airlines and hotels provide deep discounts to get tourists to come to Hawaii.
  5. Our winter “high season” is more like a “medium season,” but it’s well-above a nothing season.
  6. Entrepreneurs see opportunities ahead and start new businesses in all sectors of the economy.
  7. Property owners and landlords facilitate commerce by developing rental programs that encourage the use of their spaces, maybe not at what they received in 2019, but better than having vacancies.
  8. The State and County go “all in” for promoting tourism, and people get back to work, and our unemployment rate goes to single digits.
  9. The State and County right size their spending to reflect the decreased revenue in 2020, 2021 and beyond.

I am hopeful of a better future for Hawaii’s businesses. Unfortunately, most of what will cause changes–good or bad–are beyond our control. The one thing we can control at this point, though, is to take precautions to avoid acquiring or spreading the COVID virus. Until we get a vaccine, that’s about all we can do.