COVID-19 restrictions banning short-term vacation rentals just lifted on Oahu, which moved into Tier 2 of its economic reopening Thursday.
That means roughly 800 short-term vacation rental properties on Oahu, which had been sidelined by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s pandemic restrictions since April 7, are now allowed to resume business like their neighbor island counterparts.
Short-term rentals, which rented for 30 days or less and weren’t being used to quarantine guests, have been allowed to operate on Hawaii island and Kauai and in Maui County since the middle of June, when the state’s first pandemic-inspired interisland quarantine was lifted. That didn’t change even after Aug. 11, when a partial interisland quarantine was reinstated for the counties of Kauai, Hawaii, Maui and Kalawao.
Still, it’s not exactly been smooth sailing for vacation rentals statewide, which have suffered from a COVID-19-related plunge in travel demand just like hotels, airlines and any other member of Hawaii’s visitor industry.
Overall, travel demand in September was still depressed significantly by the requirement that all out-of-state passengers abide by a 14-day self-quarantine. It wasn’t until Oct. 15 that the state launched a pre-arrivals testing program that allows some travelers to bypass the quarantine.
Even before the pandemic, Oahu’s short-term rental industry was more restricted than in other counties. Honolulu allows short-term rental lodging only in resort and certain apartment-zoned districts, unless the property is one of the roughly 800 or so that were issued a nonconforming use certificate back in 1989 and have maintained it.
Ordinance 19-18, otherwise known as Bill 89, created means for the city to issue roughly 1,700 permits to allow bed-and-breakfast homes to operate. However, there’s a bill to push back the start date for permits to Jan. 31 because of the pandemic.
In September, Caldwell didn’t yet consider Oahu short-term rental as essential businesses. But the isle’s owners and suppliers realized the highest, albeit still low, September occupancy statewide.
According to a report released Friday by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, using data from Transparent Intelligence, Oahu’s vacation rental occupancy for September fell to 14.5%, a 59 percentage point drop from September 2019. Oahu’s vacation rental supply fell more than 56% to 97,989 units. Oahu’s demand dropped to 14,160 units, but the nearly 92% drop wasn’t quite as steep as that experienced by Maui or Kauai.
September occupancy at Maui County vacation rentals decreased 68.8 percentage points to 5.4%. Maui’s supply declined more than 48% to 151,521, and demand dropped more than 96%, the most of any island, to 8,151.
Kauai’s vacation rental occupancy fell 62.3 percentage points to 5.6%. Kauai’s supply fell nearly 49% to 62,133, while demand decreased nearly 96% to 3,500.
Hawaii island’s occupancy declined 49.2 percentage points to 10.7%. Hawaii island’s supply dropped about 57% to 89,813, and demand decreased more than 92% to 9,620.
Despite the economic devastation that tourism lockdowns have caused Hawaii’s vacation rental industry, not all Hawaii residents support allowing them to operate during the pandemic, especially since the the Honolulu Department of Planning