A grim outlook for Hawaii tourism

Just three months ago I provided a realistic view of Hawaii’s tourism, and I’m sorry to report that there is indeed trouble here in paradise, and the immediate outlook isn’t looking too rosy either.

According to recent local and national reports, Hawaii experienced a whopping 12.5% slump in visitors by sea and air for the month of January. I guess I should have come to this conclusion when, just this month, three of Honolulu’s beloved restaurants are shutting its doors for good. In Ward Center alone, only one restaurant of four on its usually happening second floor will be open come March. E&O, Compadres, and Brew Moon will be like ghost towns.

As an idealist, I’m hoping this is not a sign of the times, but it’s hard to be optimistic. And I was the one who proposed how 2009 could be the year of the YAYcation. Please don’t make me eat my words.

To complicate this already troubling matter, Hawaii is celebrating its 50th statehood anniversary, which among locals here is both bitter and sweet. Let’s not forget also that this month (on Valentine’s Day of all days) we celebrated the death of the man who “discovered” the islands, Captain Cook, who miraculously avoided death sailing around other parts of Polynesia, but didn’t make it out alive when confronted with the native Hawaiians.

As much as I would hate to see Hawaii resort to such a thing, the state is considering a move to turn the islands (or maybe just one) into the new Vegas and allow gambling. While this could certainly boost the state’s tourism and economy, it’s certainly no guarantee (just look at the reports from Nevada about the ghost town that Las Vegas is becoming). Yet, in that same Forbes report, Honolulu tops the list of high demand for living. I guess that doesn’t translate into high demand (or affordability) for traveling to Hawaii.

Somebody, please remind me to shoot myself if or when the “Golden Nugget” begins construction on Kalakaua Ave.

Cuba’s 50th anniversary

Cuba has a lot to mull over as it rushes in the new year. That’s because it’s no longer up to Fidel to make decisions about the nation’s state — particularly with regard to its relations with the world’s most powerful nations (Russia, China, and the United States to name a few…). It’s up to Fidel’s brother, Raúl, who officially took the reigns from an ailing Fidel back in February.

Fifty years ago today, Fidel Castro marched his revolutionary troops down to Havana and freed his nation from dictator Fulgencio Batista. It only seems fitting, then that this photo is Cuban propaganda that says, “Fight and conquer the impossible.” Let no one argue Fidel’s power and influence in Cuba. He entered the picture fifty years ago. The rest, they say, is history. Soon after Castro’s rising, the U.S. government banned exports and broke diplomatic relations with Cuba. The Bay of Pigs, the Cold War, Guantanamo are all marked in his nation’s history, indicating moments of victory, defeat, and uncertainty.
To be certain, this new year will be an exciting and perhaps tumultuous one for this Caribbean nation. The Guantanamo military prison, which Bush opened in January 2002 in response to the September 11 attacks, will likely close very soon. Some European countries such as France, Germany, Portugal, and Switzerland are considering taking in some Guantanamo detainees. Obama, once inaugurated, will likely open talks with Raúl Castro, possibly ending a near-fifty year cold shoulder and allowing greater ease in travel between the two countries. Citizens of both are optimistic.

Perhaps, when the next holiday season comes around, loved ones will not need to rely on web-based shopping sites to send gifts.