We Don’t Want You, Just Your Money!

More than 3,500 visitors have come to Hawaii since quarantine began

There’s no question that during this COVID-19 invasion, we in Hawaii would just as soon not have people from other states flying in here — mainly because of low airfares right now, and because we have a relatively low infection and of our relatively low death rate.

That plus the recently-acquired grievance about 10 million tourists helping crowd our beach, parks and roads each year.

We can make it a hassle for them while the virus persists — paperwork on where they’ll stay, 14-day quarantines, temperature checks — but we can’t keep outsiders outside.

The Supreme Court’s been pretty consistent on that, relying on a precedent-setting decision that the 14th Amendment gives us the right to travel, period.

(1) the right to enter one state and leave another, an inherent right with historical support from the Articles of Confederation.

(2) the right to be treated as a welcome visitor rather than a hostile stranger.

(3) the right to be treated equally to native-born citizens.

But here’s a quirk: SCOTUS never gave the power to protect that right to the feds. It rests with the states. So if we kept someone out, the state that someone came from would have to make it an issue. Would they?

We only have that 14-day quarantine for incoming people but it hasn’t worked well because we can’t (or won’t) track every person every day to make sure they’re not out and about. We could do that with ankle bracelets, but is that a privacy violation? Probably, yes.

“The only thing we’re doing is notifying the hotels, and hotel staff check,” state Adjutant General Kenneth Hara told a special legislative committee. 

A British reporter here says he spoke with eight individuals who arrived in Hawaii from four U.S. cities and none have received a call checking on them.

New Zealand doesn’t have a 14th Amendment because it does not have a written constitution. It’s a parliamentary democracy like England. So when this virus struck, it immediately imposed strict border controls and limits on travel and tourism, an industry worth $24 billion a year, until a vaccine is discovered.

And unlike other western nations, which are just trying to suppress the virus, New Zealand has set a goal of completely snuffing it out before reopening the economy.

Australia has clamped down so hard that police will stop and check cars (“where are you going?”, “why four of you in the car?”) or even people out walking. That country wants you in-house, period. And yes, it has a constitution.

I guess for us it’s nice not to have all those tourists on our beaches and trails. But we’re missing their money and all the jobs they create.

That’s been a growing feeling here for a couple years now. How can we keep the tourism money flowing but not the tourists — or at least not so many tourists? How can we welcome rich tourists who spend more, but not on 2nd homes, driving up prices for residents?

The answer to our dilemma is to move away from tourism as the prime revenue source and into something else that’s less damaging to our quality of life.

That would be science and technology.

But the folks who spent $100-$300 million buying a going hotel business ain’t gonna love me for saying that!


Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

3 replies on “We Don’t Want You, Just Your Money!”

  1. I agree with you on this, Bob, and appreciate your starting the discussion. Living in Kamuela, we are sharply aware that the State governance is seriously torn between honoring ancient Hawaiian religious practices and beliefs versus science and technology (TMT). The TV cameras prefer protests to conferences, so it is likely to remain a real mess.

  2. Like a chronic who’s been arrested and tossed in the can, Hawaii has been forced to abruptly detox cold turkey from its destructive addiction to tourism. It never should have gone this far.
    Ten million visitors per year is far too many, period. It put far too much strain on our population, infrastructure, and environment. The endless parade up Diamond Head said it all, and the illegal vacation rental scams distorted our housing market, exacerbated homelessness, and created serious social friction.
    Acting as if tourism could continue to expand each year indefinitely was ridiculous. Yes, tourism fuels much of our economy. But not everyone benefits, and there are plenty of hidden costs, such as the insatiable need for more low-wage workers who will likely remain low-wage and require costly government services, especially in times like these.
    Hawaii now has a chance to put itself in serious rehab and conduct some responsible economic and development planning with a long-range focus that redirects tourism revenue toward education and training that supports a highly skilled and truly diversified economy.
    Or it can remain in denial, bolt out of lockdown at the first opportunity, act like a desperate meth-head who will do virtually anything for a quick buck to feed the same old addiction — and forget about the future.

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