Business in Hawaii has changed so much over the past year, but there may be a return to “normal” on the horizon. Upcoming programs in Hawaii indicate that foot traffic may be on its way back.

I don’t think that things will ever “go back to normal,” but I also don’t think that’s a bad thing. The marketplace has evolved so much over the last year… It’s impossible to put the genie back into the bottle. So, instead of preparing for a return to normal, we should prepare for a “new normal.”

After all, many businesses around me on Maui found ways to pivot, with some seeing equal or greater success than they did before 2020. Many of them embraced e-commerce, invigorated their local marketing, and made it work. Now that a partial return to travel is on the horizon, they don’t necessarily have to go back to the old ways. Thus, it’s a new normal for businesses, too.

And that new normal is coming faster than you might think.

Also Read: 3 Pivots for Hawaiian Businesses in 2021

Why Local Hawaii Business Is About To Get A Boost

If you haven’t heard, Hawaii recently approved a policy that allows easier travel between the islands, powered by a vaccine passport. It goes into effect on May 11.

The caveat is, the vaccine has to be received in Hawaii for the passport system to work. This means tourists still can’t island-hop without quarantines. Only locals can.

Despite only applying to Hawaiians, I see this as an amazing opportunity. It means that more locals in Hawaii are going to travel between islands, starting as early as next month. Many people here are tired of being cooped up on their home island and will be eager to go explore what else our state has to offer.

Throughout the pandemic, I urged businesses on Maui to target the local population. When tourism fell away, the only way to get physical customers was through appealing to the people in our backyard. 

Maybe the program will work out, allowing for others from the U.S. and even internationally to come back to our shores. But right now, the best thing for businesses to do is prepare for more local traffic

Also Read: Local SEO: Maximizing Your Local Business’ ‘Near Me’ Rank

How To Prepare For the New Normal

As foot traffic slowly increases, there are a few things you can do to ensure revenue increases along with it.

  • Apply for a Revitalization Grant

The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) has created a huge fund made specifically to help restaurants and similar businesses get back on their feet after the lockdown.

It’s called the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

The good news is, it doesn’t apply only to restaurants. Foodstands, caterers, coffee shops, bakeries, bars, breweries, tasteries, and even some inns can apply. These are also some of the businesses hit the hardest by the pandemic.

If you qualify, you can gain thousands (or even millions) of dollars to cover lost payroll, rent, mortgage, utilities, maintenance, operating costs, and more. If you’re one of the businesses I listed, or you’re curious about the funds available to you, click here.

Make sure you apply as soon as possible for best results. If you’re visiting this blog post months after the fact, still bookmark the SBA website and check back for other funding programs.

  • Add Your Business to Google

To prepare for increased traffic, make sure that your business is added to Google.

Nowadays, one of the primary ways people learn about new businesses is through a quick Google search. Even if someone learns about your business through word-of-mouth, they’re likely to look you up online long before they come in person.

Since Google is by far the most popular search engine in the U.S., do everything you can to provide searchers with relevant info about your business.

Thankfully, Google provides an easy way to start an account and begin changing the search results page.

In the screenshot above, notice that Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread has a panel on the right with information about them. They earned this panel by integrating with Google. To start the process in your business, click here.

  • Add Your Business to Google & Apple Maps

In addition to making sure your business shows up when people search for it, also make absolutely sure they have directions to your business.

As people from other islands come by to visit, you want to make sure they don’t get lost. To prepare for the new normal, make it as easy as possible for new customers to find you. This means adding a Google map plugin to your website, making sure it appears on your Google business listing, and making sure people can find you in their map apps.

If you want to add your business to Google maps, first add it to Google My Business, as in my previous section. Then, follow this guide for the rest.

Ensuring your business shows up on Apple maps follows a similar process. Visit this link and sign up for an Apple ID if you don’t have one. Then, sign in and select the option “Add a New Business.” Follow the on-screen instructions to apply.

We’re not out of the woods yet, but positive changes are helping businesses make a comeback after the pandemic. Make sure you do everything you can to prepare for the new normal. And if you ever need help with grants, local marketing, or web design, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Further Reading: How Aunty Sandy’s Built an E-Commerce Platform and Started Converting at 9% With No Investors



Photos courtesy of Keegan Houser and CDC

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