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With restrictions easing, Hawaii Convention Center starts adding large events to its calendar

Published: Nov. 26, 2021 at 4:35 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 26, 2021 at 4:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Pandemic shutdowns impacting the Hawaii Convention Center have cost the economy an estimated $500 million.

Now, as gathering rules ease, the venue isn’t wasting any time trying to secure new events.

Upwards of 10,000 people are expected to attend the Young at Heart Expo next Friday and Saturday.

The event is a go after the governor and Honolulu’s mayor announced Tuesday that gathering sizes and capacity restrictions would be lifted Dec. 1.

“We immediately put out an email blast,” said John Reyes, the venue’s senior vice president.

He said there are already more than two dozen local parties, seminars and expos on the calendar through the end of year and into 2022.

Work is also underway to nail down dates for larger conferences from the continent. It’s those events that provide Oahu with the greatest economic boost.

“Just recently, we’ve been having conversations with two citywide conventions coming in 2022 that were concerned about the ability to have their meetings run,” Reyes said.

Throughout the pandemic, confusion over changing restrictions and questions about when Hawaii would reopen made it a challenge to convince organizations to commit to the convention center.

Instead, many ended up choosing states like California, Florida and Texas.

“We’re going to be feeling the hurt for a number of years,” said state Sen. Glenn Wakai.

He told HNN that 7% of Hawaii’s tourism arrivals in 2020 before the pandemic were connected to conventions. In 2021, that number dropped to less than 2%.

And while gathering restrictions are being lifted, Wakai says he doubts the state will see much of an increase next year in convention business.

“The convention business is not like leisure travel.” he said. “Many conventions are booked five years in advance.”

So far, the Hawaii Convention Center estimates its recouped about 30% of losses from the pandemic through future bookings.

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