I know people desperately need their jobs back, and that for the time being the bulk of those pending jobs are related to tourism — hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and retail sales.
But I’m one of the many fed up with the excessive tourism that was bringing 10 million visitors to these islands before the pandemic hit.
Can these two sides find compromise? That proposal to lure high-spending visitors rather than the hoy polloi won’t fly because the bulk of jobs is in moderately-to-low-priced hotels. The rich tend to pick one of the up scale resorts or private residences. We’d be pleasing the low-tourism crowd but leaving the low-skilled maids and bartenders without income.
Yes, people can be trained into new skills and eventually will have to be. But right now we don’t have any alternative job providers. Many businesses that could be here pass on us because of our distance for employees from their mainland relatives and the poor (not really deserved) reputation of our public schools.
An immigrant from Micronesia or the Philippines isn’t going to find other work for which he or she is suited. More bars and restaurants would close. The unemployment rate would not recover from the pandemic.
We’re stuck with tourism. But will they come if the attitude they encounter here is either “haole go home” or “get the hell off our beach”?
I was listening to The Conversation on Hawaii Public Radio and not surprisingly guests in the tourism business plugged for us to “welcome with aloha.” Not just for the jobs, but also for the tax revenue that pays for county and state services. No revenue and we’ll be laying off government employees next.
McKinsey & Co. is a consultancy firm on tourism and says “Companies such as Airbnb often bear the brunt of the blame for how tourism has ballooned beyond control, but that ignores the bigger picture of policies and loopholes that allow them to flourish. Budget airlines can sell flights cheaply as a result of massive tax breaks for the aviation industry, which has driven up not only tourist numbers but carbon emissions.”
Now I turn to poor Kauai and Lanai. Both had been bypassing the pandemic’s wrath. Then came the tourists and inter-island travelers. And with them, it seems, came the virus which became a community source. Now Kauai had 113 cases as of yesterday and tiny Lanai 106 cases. That’s alarming for two islands with populations, respectively, of 72,000 and 3,100.
I’ve been a big fan of Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami of Kauai. He’s been clamping down on travelers, causing his county to miss out on some jobs and revenue, but trying to beat back that virus. Most mayors have struck me as too permissive because they are too “political” and always gauging public reaction vis-a-vis their future office ambitions. Kawakami puts virus control first.
I’m hoping incoming Oahu mayor Rick Blangiardi was misquoted in the newspaper yesterday, saying “My attitude, to be candid with you, is to open up the bars.” Open the bars? Right now that would be an invitation to daily new infections in triple digits!
Testing? It’s only good for that moment in time when given. A person can become infected the very next day. And pass it on within a few days. Tourists are exposed to people in airports and on airplanes. Some of the untested sneak out of quarantine.
And who wants to come here if the first two weeks have to be spent in a hotel room or B&B if there was no test administered 72 hours before travel?
I see only one acceptable compromise solution:
Stop issuing permits for new hotels, or expansion of current hotel properties. Cut back severely on allowed short-term vacation rental permits and jack up the fines for violations.
They will come, but only as many as can find a place to stay. Don’t make it too easy.