Hundreds rally on Kauai to call for tourism reopening

LIHUE — More than 200 people gathered on Kauai to show support for reopening tourism on the island amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The group outside Vidinha Stadium Wednesday primarily consisted of business owners, The Garden Island reported.

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Attendees said they wanted to express concerns to county and state officials about the continued economic impact of restrictions on tourism.

Kauai requires visitors to take part in the Safe Travels Hawaii pre-travel testing program. Tourists who stay at a county-approved resort can bypass the state’s mandated 10-day quarantine with a negative coronavirus test taken after at least three days on the island.

Cynthia Keener shared the struggles she and her husband have experienced under travel restrictions while trying to operate their business, Ohana Fishing Charters.

“Just like many in the business community, we had a thriving growing business before COVID,” Keener said. “As a result of these policies, we have almost lost 100% of our revenue and acquired mountains of debt from government loans just to hang on.”

Keener said there is “no transparency” from the Kauai County Council or the office of Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami about future plans.

“Our families are being greatly affected by these current policies,” Keener said. “We need to know so that we can plan accordingly to get on with our lives and stop pouring money into businesses that may never return.”

David Stewart, who owns a landscaping business, agreed the mayor’s administration should be more transparent. He said his company is making very little profit, but he still hopes to pass it on to his children.

“Keep me alive, (don’t) kill my dream. Don’t kill that,” Stewart said.

County Council member Bernard Carvalho attended the rally and said officials are aware of the problems and have a plan under development, although he did not provide a timeline.

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Kauai Chamber of Commerce President Mark Perriello attended the event to encourage business owners to respond to a chamber survey about the impact of county virus policies.

“We hope to really capture a lot of voices in that survey so that we can better advocate on their behalf with government officials,” Perriello said.

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