Category Archives: Business

Terrorism and Hawaii tourism

Larry Geller ( quickly caught the theme behind the recent ISIS attacks–tourism.

He wrote:

Today’s edition of Democracy Now is well worth watching. See the video or read the transcript here.

The segment, after the headlines is the first of a two-part interview with Middle East journalist Abdel Bari Atwan that explains a great deal about ISIS and their current strength and strategies—an explanation that does not appear in the mainstream media. For one thing, the MSM seems not to want to admit that ISIS is in fact a state, with an army, police, borders, oil sales, etc. To describe them as an al-Qaeda on steroids is to mislead readers.

If the observations in the interview are correct, ISIS has moved to a strategy of targeting tourism in the West. If there is a threat to Hawaii from ISIS it could be because our economy is so heavily based on tourism that we might be in terrorists’ crosshairs.

Here’s the comment on the tourism strategy.

And that’s why we see this eight people, eight people, a very organized cell, to attack six positions, six places in Paris in the same time, the same night. It means they are lethal, they are dangerous. And this kind—these attacks is one of four attacks which took place by the Islamic State. The first thing was in Tunisia in a resort, where about 40 people were killed. And then, you know, this—the downing of the Russian tourism aircraft—224 people were killed—to destroy the tourism industry in Egypt and in Tunisia. Now they are attacking the tourism or the jewel of the crown of Europe, which is Paris, where $70 billion, actually, the revenue of the tourism industry for France. So they know what they are doing.

And should the vulnerability of tourism be worrying Hawaii tourism officials? I would hope so. After all, Hawaii was already targeted by plots against planes flying to the islands. We’re not just distant observers of this latest expansion of ISIS.

San Francisco vote puts spotlight on vacation rentals

Voters in San Francisco will have their say on Proposition F, a ballot issue that would attempt to clamp down on short-term vacation rentals. The public debate over the measure, which is widely known as the “Airbnb Initiative,” mirrors the debates here in Honolulu over transient vacation rentals. Despite the focus on Airbnb, the new restrictions would also hit property owners who rent through VRBO, HomeAaway, and other services.

If approved, the initiative would not established a ban on short-term rentals, but would put a cap of 75 rental days per year for residential properties, and add reporting requirements.

The Los Angeles Times has a good story today reviewing the pros and cons of the initiative (“San Francisco residents to vote on contentious Prop. F targeting Airbnb“).

The argument in favor of Proposition F is grounded in the belief that short-term rentals hurt the city’s already limited housing supply. Rents in San Francisco have already skyrocketed, with the median price of a one-bedroom apartment tipping into $4,000 a month. If homeowners can make more money renting out their units weeks at a time, why bother with long-term tenants?

Opponents say the reporting requirements would be too intrusive, and the 75-day limit would do nothing to address the housing crisis.

Airbnb has reportedly pumped more than $8 million into the campaign against Proposition F, and deployed a high-powered political strategist.

For those of us far from the battleground, the LA Times also provided a concise summary of the issues (“Everything you need to know about San Francisco’s Airbnb ballot measure“).

Whatever the outcome, political lessons learned in this campaign will undoubtedly inform the ongoing political fights over vacation rentals here and across the country.

Wanted: Charismatic Hawaii experts and guides

Here’s an email I received yesterday about an unusual opportunity to share what you know about Hawaii.

If you’re at all interested, act quickly because the email says they are interviewing this week!

My name is Linda Latortue and I work in Development for an award winning television production company based in NYC. We produce programs for a variety of networks including Hawaii Life on HGTV, Odd Mom Out on Bravo and This American Life on Showtime. I am writing to you now about a new project we’re developing about Hawaii travel and lifestyle. I am hoping that you will be able to provide some insight and help connect us to the best candidates for this project.

We’re searching for charismatic Hawaii experts and guides, people who always know the inside info on the best sites, hidden gems and must eats around town, to serve as hosts for a potential series. I’ve pasted our casting announcement below with more information. Please let me know if anyone comes to mind or if you’re able to spread the word about this project. We’re on a tight timeline and interviewing potential hosts this week!

I look forward to hearing back from you!


Casting Announcement

CASTING: Passionate Hawaii Experts for Fun & Adventure Show

Are you a Hawaii resident? Do you know all of the gems and must-sees?
Are you passionate about Hawaii lifestyle and culture?

An award winning production company is searching for charismatic Hawaii experts — professional or not — to host a potential new series about Hawaii travel and adventure.

We’re looking for the folks who are credible and extremely passionate about everything Hawaii has to offer. Whether it’s the best eats, must-see sights or the hidden gems only a resident would know, we’re looking for a Hawaii insider who wants to share their knowledge with a TV audience.

Potential candidates can be tour guides, concierges, or just passionate Hawaii citizens (of any island!) but all candidates must be vivacious, youthful and comfortable on camera. All participants must at least 18 years old to apply.

To be considered, please email the following:

Full Name:

Contact info (email/phone):


How long have you lived in Hawaii?

What are your favorite Hawaii hangouts and activities?

Why do you think you’re a great fit? Please provide a short bio.

Please include a few RECENT pictures of yourself.

More on airport maintenance issues

Did you catch the Hawaii News Now follow-up story last week on maintenance issues at Honolulu Airport (“Residents say Honolulu Airport maintenance issues a concern“)?

According to the story, reported by Ramsay Wharton:

Travelers shared photos with Hawaii News Now that show “out of order” toilets and other problems.

One woman wondered why an “out of order” restroom at the inter-island terminal still wasn’t functioning Tuesday, when she took the first photo of the inaccessible restroom August 18.

Much of the story was devoted to presenting the views of Department of Transportation spokesman and former reporter, Tim Sakahara.

Here’s my summary of what Sakahara had to say.

Defense #1: “He said there were currently no bathrooms that were shut down completely…”

That’s good, but…I wouldn’t think that avoiding totally shut bathrooms is something to brag about, but then again, if that’s all you’ve got…

Defense #2 (paraphrased): Wait until you see our costly new airport modernization program! We’re projected to spend $2.7 billion statewide on new facilities.

That’s good, but…without an adequately planned, financed, and staffed system for repair and maintenance, it just means lot more new stuff to fall slowly into disrepair.

Defense #3: The thousands of travelers going through the airport daily makes keeping up with repairs a big job.

“Sakahara said nearly 40 custodial staff (two supervisors, 37 staff) are scheduled to clean the bathrooms throughout the day. But he added that they are short nine staff members on the graveyard shift.”

Two points to be made here. First, in most cases, it isn’t cleaning that’s the big issue. It’s the achingly slow process for repairing and replacing damaged facilities, even when the breakdowns can be predicted due to age, heavy use, etc.

And, second, there’s the “short staff” defense sneaking in, as if staffing levels are not something that is mostly within the control of the Airports Division (largely self-funded through fees, and not as heavily depending on legislative decisions as other departments).

If you would like more details about Honolulu Airport, or the rest of the state’s public airports for that matter, you might be interested in this bond statement from 2013, one of the more recent ones available. Here’s its concise description of the Honolulu Airport:

Honolulu International Airport. Honolulu International, the primary airport in the Airports System, is located approximately three miles west of downtown Honolulu. Honolulu International is the largest and busiest of the State’s airports, accounting for 59.6% of all passengers enplaned in the Airports System in fiscal year 2013. In 2009, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (the “FAA”), Honolulu International was the twenty-fifth busiest in the United States in total passengers (enplaned and deplaned). The 2012 Airports Council International Worldwide Traffic Report listed Honolulu International as the 81st busiest airport in the term of total passengers. These rankings reflect Honolulu International’s (1) large origin-destination passenger base (related to the visitor industry), (2) geographic location in the central Pacific, and (3) role as a hub for Hawaiian Airlines and Mesa Airlines (operating as go!), which provide connecting service from Honolulu International to the other Airports System primary airports. Honolulu International serves interisland flights, domestic overseas flights and international flights to destinations on the Pacific Rim, Oceania and Canada.

Honolulu International has four runways, two of which (12,000 and 12,300 feet long) are amongst the nation’s longest. In addition, it has the only reef runway in the nation (12,000 feet long by 200 feet wide). Honolulu International has 55 total gate positions, including 29 overseas aircraft gate positions with loading bridges, 13 interisland aircraft parking positions, 11 commuter aircraft parking positions and public parking spaces for 5,740 vehicles. Honolulu International also provides runways for Hickam Air Force Base and the Hawaii Air National Guard.

Bond statements like this one are full of detailed management and financial information, and a great source to get started in understanding the airport system.

Fatal accident in Seattle calls attention to Hawaii duck tours

Those duck boat tour vehicles have been in the news since the accident on a Seattle bridge last week that left five people dead.

Following the accident, Washington State regulators shut down the duck tours pending inspections and a review of maintenance records.

AP reports that there are about 100 vehicles in use across the country, although attorneys representing victims in prior accidents say they are too dangerous and have called for them to be banned from carrying passengers.

The vehicle involved in the Seattle crash had not undergone the repair of it front axle after a warning several years ago from the company that refurbishes the former military craft.

The NTSB had few details about the warning Ride the Ducks International issued. It was unclear what prompted it, how the potential failure was discovered, or whether it applied to all duck boats or only those the company had refurbished, Weener said.

It was unclear how many of the 100 duck boats in service nationally may have had the repair, he said.

Several duck tour companies did not immediately respond for requests for information about the warning and whether they had made repairs. Miami’s tour company noted that it uses newer boats — built since 2004 — and said the warning had nothing to do with its fleet.

The alert included specific instructions for inspecting the area where the shaft could fail as well as instructions for the repair, which involved welding collars around the axle shaft, Weener said.

In 2010, two vehicles operated by Hawaii Duck Tours were ordered out of service by the Coast Guard after a flash fire on one injured an employee, according to a report at the time in the Maui News.

Hmmmmm. I haven’t seen any follow-up by local reporters following the Seattle incident. How many of these duck vehicles/vessels are operating in Hawaii? Hawaii Duck Tours boasts of a number of different tours being offered, including a sunset tour, a Pearl Harbor tour, and another tour of Maunalua Bay, but it isn’t clear how many vehicles are involved, how many passengers they carry, or whether they have had the repairs that were previously recommended.

And their safety record locally? Unknown.