Hawaii’s hospitality industry offer free staycations to eligible Hawaii health care workers – Honolulu Star-Advertiser

GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM
The Waikiki Beach Marriott is among at least 50 Hawaii hotels offering free staycations to selected Hawaii health care workers. Visitors checked in at the lobby Thursday.
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM
The Waikiki Beach Marriott is among at least 50 Hawaii hotels that will offer free two-night staycations to eligible Hawaii health care workers. An extended family from Costa Mesa, Calif., waited in the lobby Thursday.
Hawaii’s hospitality industry is offering free staycations to eligible Hawaii health care workers who are battling COVID-19 fatigue after weeks of surging infections and deaths. Read more
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Hawaii’s hospitality industry is offering free staycations to eligible Hawaii health care workers who are battling COVID-19 fatigue after weeks of surging infections and deaths.
The Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association announced Thursday that it will soon begin “Hotels for Healthcare Heroes” in partnership with the Healthcare Association of Hawaii and Laulima Data Alliance.
Mufi Hannemann, HLTA president and CEO, said the program will provide complimentary two-night staycations to front-line doctors, nurses and hospital clinical staff who are working to address COVID-19. Hospital administrators will select the participants and will work with HLTA and HAH to make reservations for them at hotels, which will bear all costs.
“In the earliest days of the pandemic, HLTA joined the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the Hawaii Visitors & Conventions Bureau to run the ‘Hotels for Heroes’ program which used state funds to provide free hotel stays for doctors, nurses, first responders, and other essential workers,” Hannemann said. “While we had hoped another iteration of this program would not be necessary, the recent surge in new cases created a need that HLTA and our partners are willing and able to address.”
A similar state-funded program ended after COVID-19 cases dropped and the launch of Hawaii Safe Travels on Oct. 15 provided a way for the visitor industry to begin recovering. But the end of summer brought a surge in COVID-19 cases and a huge drop in fall visitors after Gov. David Ige asked travelers to stop coming to Hawaii through October.
The situation has taken a toll on health care workers, many of whom are working more days and longer shifts to make up for employment shortages. They’ve had to deal with a heartbreaking climb in hospitalizations while trying to avoid getting sick themselves and potentially spreading the virus to their friends and family.
“Our medical teams are exhausted. They’ve been treating COVID patients now for 18 months,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who joined Hannemann, all four mayors and HAH President and CEO Hilton Raethel at a digital news conference Thursday to support the initiative.
Green, who is an emergency room physician, said Hawaii has now had over 3,500 COVID-19 hospitalizations, about 70,000 COVID-19 cases and 633 deaths.
“(The pandemic) takes its toll physically and mentally on the teams across the state,” Green said. “As we’ve gone through this third surge, the delta surge, and we are now about 30 days into it, we hear day after day about how people can’t wait for the day when not only does the surge come down, but that they can get some kind of way to recharge their batteries.”
He added, “People will give better care to their patients in Hawaii because of what you are doing today.”
At least 50 hotels, including the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa, are participating in the program, which begins the weekend of Sept. 17 and will run on consecutive weekends through the end of October.
Thomas Foti, general manager of the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa and incoming chairman of HLTA, said, “We are just thankful and appreciative of all the great work that the first responders and healthcare professionals provide on a day to day basis and we are more than thrilled to be able to give back to the community and provide some comfort and relaxation for all their hard work.”
Maui Mayor Mike Victo­rino said more than a third of Maui hotels have agreed to provide relief to health care workers.
“(Health care workers) do need some time away from all of these trials and tribulations,” Victorino said. “The way our policies have been set across the state regarding visitation, these people have really become the consolers of our people who are very sick. We need to honor them.”
Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said the program will be especially welcome on Hawaii island, “where, prior to the pandemic, we were already operating at a shortage of 50% of necessary health care workers.”
Kauai Mayor Derek Kawa­kami said Hawaii must address the needs of health care workers during the pandemic.
“We’re going to need everyone to keep our health care workers in mind as we get through this because they are people — they are mothers, they are fathers, they are sons, they are daughters, and we are getting them burned out,” Kawakami said. “Thank you for giving these folks some time to rest and recuperate. So, to all of our health care workers, we just want to say: keep your chin up. You guys are doing a fantastic job, and we are so grateful to be able to count on you. This is just our way of saying mahalo.”
Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi also offered his appreciation to health care workers and Hawaii’s hospitality industry.
”These people have pushed themselves way beyond their limits. I’ve run out of superlatives. You can’t say enough about our health care workers, and I am glad to see this kind of generosity from the hospitality industry,” Blangiardi said. “We’ve been in a fight for a long time, and it feels like we might be able finally get on top of (the pandemic). This move right now really helps a lot.”
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