This morning's utterly gray and gloomy skies likely won't make it any easier for folks to trudge back to work after a four-day weekend ushered out last evening by a thin moon drifting in a swirl of sunset hues above the mountains.
I always feel a little sorry for tourists who visit this time of year, as so often the weather doesn't serve up the tropical idyll that Hawaii marketing promises. I reflected on this while eating lunch at Anini Beach a few days back, watching visitors gamely spreading their beach towels in a wind so brisk it was blowing the locally-grown greens right off my fork while enroute to my mouth.
Yet still they keep on coming. As The Garden Island reported, quoting a First Hawaiian Bank forecast:
“[T]he snapback in Kaua‘i’s tourism has been strong” and has led Kaua‘i’s economy, with visitor numbers easily topping other islands and the state as a whole. It attributes the gains to strong brand image and a stable time-share segment.
But as economist Ken Stokes, now under contract to the county, notes, although a high visitor count does generate money for the local economy — and right now, it's about the only thing that is — it doesn't appear to stimulate job creation, especially in the hotels.
That's because so many are now staying at the aforementioned timeshares, as well as vacation rentals, both of which generate fewer jobs, typically with no benefits.
Still, in working on an article about “farm-to-table” endeavors on Kauai, it's clear that tourism does help to boost agriculture — except, of course, when ag land is sold to them for second homes, a trend that may be on the decline, seeing as how the island has lost 40 percent of its Realtors.
Visitors also comprise the bulk of those attending farmers' markets — they account for a whopping 75 percent of the traffic at the Waipa market — and many of the veggie farmers count on sales to the high-end restaurants, which are frequented most often by tourists, to help keep them afloat.
Speaking of the high-end restaurants, I've noticed that many have begun using brown, waxed-cardboard boxes for leftovers and take out orders. I don't know how the price compares to the ubiquitous white foam containers, but there's definitely a workable alternative should the County Council see fit to ban the plate lunch boxes that surely clog the landfill to a much higher degree than the now-prohibited plastic shopping bags. And unlike the bags, foam boxes can't be recycled here and are not typically re-used.
I was thinking the other day, while using a fork made from corn to eat the salad purchased from the Lilikoi lunch wagon at Anini, of the massive amounts of trash generated by our relatively new desire/need to eat and drink on the run. But rubbish, whether biodegradable or not, is only part of the story. China alone is producing some 57 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks each year, primarily for export, contributing to the rapid loss of Asian forests.
So now that I know that, why haven't I slipped a pair of non-disposable sticks into my purse, backpack, glove box? Note to self.....