Monday, November 28, 2011

Musings: Monday Mix

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.....


Latitude Adjustment said...

Don't feel sorry for the tourists and the rain - I can still remember back in 60's, when as a child the warm rain and chill of the evening trades was a blessed relief from the ice water falling from foggy skies, the iced windshields, and sting of frozen ears and fingers.....and should the sun burn through the warm and bright gloom, then it is a winter day of glory, better than any amount of fresh powder and the first morning run...

The poor tourists aren't spending much more than they do at home, less than $170 a day total. The number of tourists is irrelevant to our economy, the amount they spend is crucial. Staying in time shares and vacation rentals that are the same price as nice accommodations back home, and shopping for food sales and at box stores brings precious little new money into our local economy - most of the money is headed for Wall Street as mortgage payments or profits for shareholders.

Real estate speculation is not on the decline - the Council just passed bill 2140 which includes language our County Attorney will render useless and unenforceable the 1.5% growth limit when the 4,000 excess Transient Accommodation Units currently grand-fathered in are built. Wall Street financiers are waiting for the tourism visa issue with China and India to be resolved, and then tens of millions of wealthy mainland Asian investors will come calling for your piece of the American Dream and re-payment of our 14 trillion dollar National debt. Are you ready for the mother of all real estate bubbles? Coming soon the sunny Kauai......

Anonymous said...

Chopsticks are toxic......what else is new? Duh?! WTF?

BYO chopsticks like the Japanese do......they keep them in their purse. Why not? safer, no environmental impact, no carcinogens.

Coming from California in the the 1980's as tourists......we loved this weather. Hydrates your skin, gets rid of your desert wrinkles....and, you can hike naked in the Jungle...a real adventure treat and fun.

Its coming to use the rest rooms that totally sucked! Can we not have clean rest rooms for the visitors and locals? Is this complicated?

We went hiking in the forest today and when we came back..the county workers still eating lunch... a 3 hour lunch.... with lots of food, fun and tax payers expense. Betta clean the bathrooms!

Help Mel!

Dr Shibai

Anonymous said...

Lend a hand, clean a restroom!
Mel can't help...
Shebai = mierda

Mauibrad said...

Truth be known, the Kauai visitor industry has not snapped back and is not doing near as well as on Maui or Oahu.

Furthermore, the cost of electricity on Kauai is much higher on Kauai than Oahu or Maui and is becoming a significant hinderance as a business operating expense.