Letter to the Editor: Reloading Pre-Pandemic Tourism Not The Answer For Hawai‘i

May 24, 2020, 10:41 AM HST (Updated May 24, 2020, 10:41 AM)
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The following is a letter to the editor. It does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of either Big Island Now or Pacific Media Group. It has not been edited for content. 

Tourism Reboot was the front-page lead on April 23, 2020, in West Hawai‘i Today, and my blood ran cold when I read it. I suspect Ross Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawai‘i Visitors Bureau, is a well-meaning, competent, factually accurate person so as I read through the article and my sense of gloom got worse, I realized it had nothing to do with him. It was the lead itself: Tourism Reboot.

I have spent my working life in the world of technology, where the term ‘reboot’ originated, and have a deeper understanding of the term than many. It conveys the sense of desperate urgency, essentially a last-ditch attempt to fix a problem, get the system running again without actually knowing how or why the attempt might work. At this point, we do not care about the why, only that it might work. A reboot (reload, restart, cold restart, cold upload, restore, delete and reload) is not a fix. It is no more than an admission that our system is hopelessly snarled, and we are doing the functional equivalent of turning it off and then back on — or banging (kicking) the side of the system case and hoping for the best.

In life, as in technology, problems don’t just go away. They move, evade, morph, but come back. So much for the word ‘reboot’. But perhaps the real problem is the other word: tourism. It is glittery and promises what seems an easy buck. All illusions do this. And now that we all realize that tourists come with more than money and attitudes (a virus?), we find ourselves in a bad place. We see values that seem irreconcilable.

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Many, many years ago, Jack Benny, the comedian, popularized the joke/gag of himself walking in the park and confronted by an armed robber pointing the gun at him demanding, ‘Your money or your life?’ He paused thoughtfully for a long time until finally, the robber demanded, ‘What’s it going to be mister?’

Benny’s response: ‘I’m thinking. I’m thinking.’

It was funny then. Not so funny now.”

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