In the dubious “good news” category, we learn that tourism numbers — and spending — are up on Kauai.
This has Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau, proclaiming:
What these numbers show is that we are starting to get back to peak-performance rates.
Peak performance? Only if you don't count the clogged roadways, the crowded beaches, the overflowing dump and cesspools, visitors staying in illegal, unsafe rentals, the out-of-control TVRs, the complete non-sustainability of the tourism industry, the soured locals, the disgruntled residents.
Sue goes on to gush:
Kauai is the Hawaii of old. The thing that people love about Kauai is that it is exotic and they can experience nature. Kauai is remote but still convenient.
Though not so convenient when you're stuck in the Kapaa traffic snarl, or the highway closes due to a crash and you miss your flight. And as a disgruntled Canadian visitor wrote in a letter to the editor yesterday, litter-strewn roadways, chicken abuse and being treated like shit is neither exotic, nor charming:
We found this experience to be very sad, the island that we had grown to love and respect had drastically changed, not by Mother Nature but by people that should know better and just take it for granted. Your culture is not for the tourists but is something you yourself own. Don’t be so quick to give it away.
Yes, you say if we don’t like it stay away, well, we have indeed made that decision. We will vacation where we are appreciated, not just tolerated. We get that the local people are frustrated, but it wasn’t us that sold your heritage.
It reminds me of a comment made by a man I met in India. He'd traveled the world, starting as a little boy. And the only place he was treated badly, he told me, was in Hawaii, where he'd been verbally abused for no reason he could ascertain, other than his white skin.
“I understand the colonialism thing, and why they feel unhappy with visitors,” he said. “But that didn't make it any easier to be on the receiving end of a really nasty tirade.”
And it was much the worse, he said, because he'd believed the tourism marketing myth about Hawaii's enduring aloha, extended to all.
So 20,000 more people visited Kauai in the first three months of 2015 than the year before, and in keeping with the “more is better” mentality of the visitor industry, next year will be a success if it brings in 20,000 more than that.
Where does it end? Is the goal unlimited exposure, ever-growing numbers? How many visitors can Kauai support before it loses its exotic appeal and the stressed-out, priced-out locals lose their aloha? Could it be we're already there?
Meanwhile, regular reader and frequent commenter Dawson sent me a link to a Los Angeles Times article that questions whether Santa Monica, or anyplace else, can enforce a ban on short-term rentals:
The explosion of tourist rental websites such as Airbnb is the latest challenge for governments struggling to keep up with technological disruption. With a unanimous vote of the City Council Tuesday night, Santa Monica set up a test case for how cities can rein in the so-called sharing economy.
Scott Shatford, who lists three units on Airbnb in Santa Monica, said he expects the more "entrepreneurial" short-term rental managers will find new ways to preserve their income.
"The profit margin is so great, and the demand is so great," he said. "If people recognize the dollars are there to do it, they'll figure out any possible method to make it work."
Santa Monica's restrictions aim to appease a coalition of irritated neighbors, affordable housing advocates and the hotel industry. But they are up against people and companies making good money renting out properties by the day.
AirBnB has even expanded to Cuba:
But the economic impact will be limited. Housing conditions in Cuba are particularly bad, and construction material difficult to come by, meaning only those who can afford it will be able to list, said Sebastian A. Arcos, associate director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University.
Congress is now starting to scrutinize this mushrooming industry, grilling AirBnB and Homeaway about "taxes, regulations and safety concerns,” the LA Times reports in a linked story:
"The sharing economy is here to stay and we should be working together on progressive rules that help regular Californians pay their bills and pursue their dreams," said Christopher Nulty, a spokesman for the [AirBnB] company.
As Dawson astutely noted:
This movement has the potential to turn entire towns and regions into one giant hotel, disenfranchising huge numbers of locals.
If you live on the North Shore, or much of the Southside, that doesn't just sound familiar, it's the sad reality.
And finally, someone keeps trying to leave slanderous comments about Ka'aina, claiming he was not educated in planning and is otherwise unqualified for his new job as Deputy Planning Director. I checked with Director Mike Dahilig:
Ka`aina graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a degree in Political Economy, which has an emphasis on Urban Planning. He was hired by the Department of Planning in 2007 as a Planner I. Over the past 8 years, he has worked within the Regulatory Division reviewing an array of different projects and plans. He has served as the lead planner on several zoning ordinances, including but not limited to the Farm Worker Housing Ordinance and currently the Homestay Ordinance. Over the past eight years, he has risen to a Planner V, and ultimately Deputy Director, a position for which both his educational background and years of experience qualify him.
The minimum qualification for the Deputy Planning Direction requires “A Bachelor’s degree in planning, engineering, architecture, or related field and a minimum of five years of training and experience working in a planning department.”
So 'nuff already.