Larry Ellison closed nearly all of the hotels on his Hawaiian island — and the unemployment rate doubled

Four seasons lanai
The Four Seasons at Manele Bay, prior to the renovation. Courtesy of Four Seasons

Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison has already made plenty of changes on Lanai, the Hawaiian island he purchased 98% of in 2012.

Some of those changes have been significantly more harmful than others.

In June, he shut down both of the island’s main hotels — the 201-room Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay and the 102-room Four Seasons Resort Lanai the Lodge at Koele — for an extensive renovation process.

The newly renamed Four Seasons Resort Lanai (formerly the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay) just started taking reservations for early 2016 and is scheduled to officially reopen in February.

With both of the main resorts closed, however, 97% of the island’s hotel rooms have been unavailable to tourists for the last few months. And for an island whose economy depends on tourism, that’s a big deal.

Pacific Business News reported that Lanai’s unemployment rate shot up to 6.1% in October, more than double the rate of 2.9% it was at this time last year.

The Four Seasons Resort Lanai the Lodge at Koele will continue to be used as housing for construction workers laboring at the other Four Seasons, as it has been for the last several months.

The only hotel that will be open to the public until then is the tiny Hotel Lanai, a classic Hawaiian lodge built by pineapple king James Dole in 1923. With only 11 rooms available in total, reservations are hard to come by.

The Four Seasons renovation included the addition of several restaurants — including Nobu Lanai, One Forty, American Steak, and Hawaiian Seafood — as well as designer boutiques.

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