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FM Perspectives: Coronavirus Response Empties Hawaii Hotels


By Naomi Millán Facilities Management
Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head Crater including the hotels and buildings

The primary source of income for Hawaii is the visitor sector. And since the last week of March, those visitors have all been told to stay home as the state tries to contain the spread of COVID-19. Any incoming passenger, even between the islands, has to go into a 14-day quarantine. The immediate impact is that hotels, which have run at occupancy rates around 95 percent over the last 12 years are currently below 5 percent occupied, if they're open at all, according to Derek Bacigal, board member of the IFMA Hawaii chapter. At the end of March, he estimated that about 90 percent of the hotels were closed, and shared some observations on how the hospitality industry is responding to the situation.  

Facility management is considered an essential service and a lot of the hotels have in-house engineers. But what that means for ongoing staffing depends on the individual property. Some that are closed are running minimal shifts. Others are still pressing forward with maintenance work, taking advantage of the dip in occupancy to be able to work in normally highly-occupied areas to catch up on corrective, deferred, or preventive maintenance, he says. 

Large hotels, with 1,000 or 2,000 rooms have multiple food and beverage outlets on premise. The perishables have been long cleared out, and the facilities have been working on load shedding by shutting down reach in coolers, glass coolers, pool heaters, anything that is non-essential and can be unplugged. In humid Hawaii, the room thermostats have been put on schedules for dehumidification, but not occupancy comfort. In Waikiki, the room towers have all their blackout curtains shut, to control thermal heat gain. 

He foresees a dramatic impact on the hospitality industry in the islands. "It's going to take a while to bounce back from this," he says. 

Naomi Millán is senior editor of Building Operating Management. What does the COVID-19 response look like from where you’re sitting? Send me an email sharing best practices you’ve discovered, surprising pivots you’ve had to make, or just general observations at naomi.millan@tradepress.com

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