Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock, president of Chinatown Business and Community Association, would tell you Chinatown’s notorious “perfume” is part of why visitors shy away from visiting the historic neighborhood.
But now she says it’s gotten much better. “We have seen great improvements,” she said. “The smell isn’t so prevalent.”
Just last month, Chinatown businesses told KHON2 about the struggles of paying rent. Kwock says obstacles stood in Chinatown’s way: the large homeless population, lack of public restrooms and the lack of marketing.
But change is happening. In just a month, shop and restaurant owners are reporting improved business, and officials say it’s due to a host of factors: The city passing the “sit-lie” ban in Chinatown, as well as the new hygiene facility on North Pauahi Street helped clean up the streets.
“It’s a lot cleaner. Shopkeepers are happier. We’re seeing more people coming into Chinatown,” Shubert-Kwock said.
And the start of Chinese New Year have also helped foot traffic — wealthy Chinese visitors are making Chinatown one of their vacation stops. “They’re curious, because our Chinatown is the oldest in the United States.”
According to local tour companies, Chinese visitors are spending upwards of $10,000 while on vacation. “It’s the most beautiful island in the world!” exclaimed visitor Kevin Hong.
“Chinese people want to be very extravagant during this month,” Shubert-Kwock said. “The more you spend, the more you eat, the more wealth you have.”
Neighborhood officials want to keep up the momentum. “We can do more for Chinatown and work with the Waikiki people, you know, the tourism authority,” said neighborhood board member Stanford Yuen. “If we can work with them and put our name on their map, that would help.”
And hopefully turn Honolulu’s Chinatown into a premiere tourist destination.