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Letter datted 5/19/2020
My purpose in developing this COVID-19 information letter is to keep our guests up to date on our tour status and our state’s status for visitors. There is a lot of information here, so please read ALL of this letter. I will attempt to keep this letter updated with the most current information. There could be a delay of a few days in the updates because our web designer, Lexstyle, is in LA, we are in Hawaii and with emails and publishing, we could be a few days late in posting updates.
Hawaii has a small population, about 1.5 million people in the entire state, all islands combined. Our state receives about 9 million visitors each year (mostly coming to Waikiki) from virtually every country on earth. We are severely outnumbered by our visitors. As you can see, if even a small percentage of visitors are COVID-19 positive the impact to our small state could be devastating. Now that being said, all hotels and tour companies were taking visitors all the way up to the shutdown in Mid-March and there has been very little sickness in Hawaii. Less than 700 positive tests and less than 20 deaths in all of Hawaii. No one has explained why this small impact has happened, given all the people visiting. I personally have taken these same people on tours of up to 10+ hours in length, sharing a Hummer or our Dharma Van, a Mercedes minivan sized vehicle with Dharma logos all around. These are small vehicles and we are all breathing the same air. From late 2019 to March 2020, we have taken people from all over the world, every country in Western Europe, from Italy all the way up to the top of Norway and everywhere in between, a few from the Mid East, from Canada, from Mexico, Central and South America and lots of Australians and neither myself or our guides have been sick in the slightest. With the virus being so contagious, I can’t explain that either. LOST fans must be tough!
Hawaii’s Current Status
The government of Hawaii and each island’s mayor have been vigilant in helping to keep us healthy and safe. As I understand the policy, as of now and until June 30, 2020, if anyone travels to any island in Hawaii, from anywhere in the world, even inter-island, the incoming person will be subjected to a 14 day quarantine. This applies to visitors and returning residents as well, so please understand that this is not an anti-tourism policy. Kauai island just had a local resident returning from the Mainland not obey the quarantine policy and she was jailed and had to post a $6000 bond to get out of jail. For a typical tourist, this means you get off the plane in Honolulu, you go through a processing station where your personal information is gathered and you are quarantined to your hotel room, literally, your room and your lanai (balcony). No restaurants. Your food must be delivered to the room. No hotel pools, lobbies, no walking up and down the hallway or hotel beaches. In your room for 14 days. As you can see, at this point, please DO NOT visit Hawaii prior to July 2020. Our local TV stations are just not that interesting! This policy could be extended so please check for updates. Please Google SafeTravels.Hawaii.gov for more information.
The island of Oahu has been opening slowly over the last few weeks. Beaches opened up on 5/16/20, with “social distancing.” Parts of our mall opened up also, with some restaurants opening up in a week or so with some new operating rules. Face masks are required for basically all enclosed public spaces. Outdoor spaces can be mask free. On my daily run, I find about half of all people wear masks outside, but there is no requirement for outside use, at this time. Some hotels are open and have guests, but remember, if you arrive and stay at a hotel, BNB, vacation rental, single family home, or anywhere, you will have a 14 day quarantine in your room.
We are a very small business and I have no inside information as to what the future of tourism will bring or when opening up for tourism will happen. This is just my personal belief based on watching the news and having a good feeling for what our government will do. The last news report is that we are in the beginning phase of determining what the state’s requirements will be for tourism to begin. They mentioned possibly opening in July 2020, but provided no specifics. I believe this is just a possibility and probably far less than a 50/50 chance. At this point, there is no guidance as to what documentation an incoming person will need to be released into the state without quarantine. I believe that you may need some sort of immunization card or a letter from your doctor stating that you are tested and virus free. But nothing official has been presented to the public. I will up date this section as soon as more information is available.
a. Our company is flush with cash. We can pay our monthly bills and help cover some our guides personal expenses for over a year and stay solvent. As the owner, I have been good at saving our profits for future use and we are using profits to stay in business, rather than cashing out and quitting. Do not cancel your reservation for a LOST Tour scheduled for July 2020 or later at this point. As our booking page under terms and conditions section states, we refund 90% of the cost of the tour. We hold 10% to cover expenses associated with the booking, ie, the cost of charging your card (between 2.5 and 5% depending of the card and country of origin) and the Hawaii General Excise Tax (4.712% on Oahu) which we pay for you at time of booking. My apologies for holding that 10%. It is money we have paid out that we cannot get back.
b. We should know more about the possibility for July tours by mid-June, a few weeks from now. If you re already booked for July please do not cancel at this point because it may work out. If July does not work and you are flexible on your vacation dates, rescheduling is always free. I will contact you by email if we need to cancel or reschedule when I get more information. But please feel free to contact me if you want to cancel or reschedule.
c. For new reservations, I will take and schedule your booking over our website, by phone or by email, but I will not charge your card until closer to your tour, when we are certain that Hawaii will allow you to come here and not be quarantined. The website will hold your reservation and I will send you a personal tour confirmation email, but your card will not be charged immediately. When I charge the card, you will receive an automated email from the website. Please keep your card active and sufficient funds so that the charge goes through
What we will do when we open
a. At no additional cost to you, most tours will become private tours, to assist with “social distancing.” Hummers and our Dharma Van do not allow for social distancing. It is just a lack of space issue. Since tours will be private, there is no need for social distancing between guests. Your guide/driver will be an issue. The driver / guide will were a mask during the “in the vehicle” part of the tour. Outdoors, there is no mask requirement. We usually do not take one person reservations, but we may take a one person reservation (with prior coordination) and have that solo traveler sit up front and keep the other guests in back for some separation. The solo guest must be masked just like the driver / guide. Masks will not be optional.
b. The inside of each vehicle will be wiped down with Clorox style wipes prior to taking new guests on tour. We are an island and cleaning supplies are often not available. If Clorox type wipes are not available, we will use soapy water for wipe down.
c. With all tours being private and deep cleaning the inside of the vehicle before use, I think we will be able to keep our guests safe and healthy. Please remember that the virus could be lurking in hotel rooms, restaurants, on handrails, blowing around in the air, etc. I recommend that each guest bring their own safety equipment. Bring your own masks, bring your own Clorox wipes, bring your own rubber gloves, not only for use on my tours, but mainly for use around hotels and restaurants. We will not provide the protective equipment. Please bring your own.
I want to mention our web designers, Alex and Emily of Lexstyle. For years we operated with an old, ugly website. It was effective so I was never in a hurry to develop another one. Daily I would receive calls and emails from web designers who would say something stupid like “I can get you to the top of Google.” I was already at the top of Google. These people did not know my business, they did not have any vision of what I would want… They had not even seen LOST! A couple years ago I took a couple on a LOST tour, Alex and his wife Emily. We talked a lot about LOST, Natural History and also chit chatted about some personal things like where are you from, what line of work, etc. They were web designers. At the end of the tour Alex said if I ever wanted help with a website just ask. And I did. Alex and Emily designed the website for LostToursHawaii.com, with virtually no input from me. They are not only superb web designers, but I think of them more like artists that use a computer. I provided a few pics and they did the rest. I highly recommend them for any of your website designing needs. Check them out: Lexstyle.
I apologize for the length of this letter, but there is a lot of information to pass along about the COVID-19 issues as it relates to LOST Tours Hawaii and our state. I will continue to update the letter probably once or twice a month as new information about tourism and our tours become available.
Let LOST Tours Hawaii help you to Get LOST on Oahu.
Best wishes to you, your family and friends during these uncertain times.