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Great deals to be had
There are a number of revealing opinions about Kona air quality from recent visitors on TripAdvisor. It should be noted that 67% of all travelers rely on reviews on TripAdvisor before purchasing travel products. While searching the web for reports I chanced upon a number of posts devoted to this subject from tourists who have visited within the last 2 weeks. I would recommend that any leisure travelers currently planning to visit within the next week or two read these posts. Searching for images is also quite revealing.
As for our Amateur-Hour "tourism authority," which is necessarily devoted to selling Hawaii, not disseminating accurate information, I would advise that being "safe to visit" is hardly the same as "guaranteed to be an enjoyable vacation." In all the lava hysteria, it's been largely ignored that we still have Zika, Dengue, the Sydney flu, and the "publicly acquired pneumonia" that has been going around (and around and around) for the last few months. So, arriving in Kona and suddenly experiencing severe respiratory symptoms wouldn't necessarily be related to the toxic air.
As a former U.S. trade representative for the tourism industry, it is my belief that the Hawaii authorities are actually bungling the entire situation with their hollow, desperate-sounding messages, bound to make any traveler suspicious. Lambasting cruise operators for not visiting isn't exactly helping; the average cruise passenger is elderly and many are disabled--exactly the types of people who fall into the "sensitive" category. Two weeks ago, the lone cruise ship looked fairly forlorn sitting there in the dense smoke; one truly had to feel for the passengers, who undoubtedly couldn't wait for the ship to set sail out of all the muck and mire. You can't blame the cruise companies, which are reeling from losses caused by seemingly never-ending flu and food poisoning outbreaks. The last thing they need are lawsuits from passengers claiming they got sick from volcanic emissions.
"Only a little teeny tiny part of the island is affected, ha ha, and never mind that you can't even see the shore from your cabin. It's not toxic volcanic emissions, just totally normal low-lying ocean mist like the kind in King Kong, ha ha."
On the plus side, there are great deals to be had at the moment. If I were living on the mainland now (well, OK, there are plenty of reasons I'm living in Kona and not on the mainland) and planning to visit the Big Island around now I'd take advantage of the deals. On the other hand, I'd most likely be visiting to go scuba diving, as our island has the best shore diving sites in the archipelago (as well, unfortunately, as some of the most polluted sites; the "potato chip bag/Coke can" dive in a famous bay frequented by "BBQ boats," for example). The visibility underwater isn't as great as it used to be, but not because of the volcanic emissions. Decades of pesticides, herbicides, sewage, motor oil, and silt draining from the island into the sea have impacted the coral reefs, many of which are becoming bleached from climate change, as well. Anyone who has dived around here for the last 30 years is aware of the dramatic changes to the coral. Still, there's a profusion of tropical fish and sea turtles to fascinate even the most casual diver or snorkeler. There's even a staged manta ray "wimp dive" at night which I'd recommend if you haven't done the Cayman Islands Stingray dive. The ocean in Hawaii isn't as warm and cozy as in the Caymans, and the manta rays aren't as user-friendly as stingrays, whch will literally sit on your head for a treat, but a good photo op nonetheless. The shore dives also provide people on the shore with endless amusement, such as watching you do involuntary cartwheels as you enter and exit the water.
Of course, I wouldn't be coming to scuba dive this year, because, well, I'm so old that when I was a kid the Dead Sea was only sick.
However, it's important to realize the truth about why people visit the Big Island: 1. The volcano is the Big Island's biggest tourist attraction. 2. Whale watching is the second biggest attraction. 3. The majority of visitors don't come to "see and do things," other than occasionally eat out at a tropical-themed restaurant. 4. 75% of tropical resort guests and over 90% of convention attendees never leave the resort during their stay.
Now for the reality sandwich: 1. The volcano is closed to sightseeing. People are being told to stay away--far away. 2. The humpbacks have left and won't be around until October. 3. The minority of visitors who are addicted to bustling busily to and fro can still take spectacular telescope tours or enjoy looking at the volcanic emissions from a BBQ boat. 4. Hotel bookings are down 50% and cancellations are up 50%, according to numerous published reports.
The mayonnaise on the sandwich is that most people are inclined not to travel at all in the face of any sort of off-putting event.
Yes, an economic crisis is unfolding. Ag is getting hit hard now, with crops literally withering overnight, along with tourism and real estate. The downturn in tourism affects supermarkets and big box stores to some extent, as well. I certainly don't blame anyone who wants to sell you something, or whose livelihood depends on someone who wants to sell you something, for encouraging you to hop right on over.
However, the toxic air is definitely affecting me at this point, as an asthmatic. People have been posting on the internet that the doctors in Kona are advising people to "get out of the area" as soon as possible, or better, yet "leave the island."
There is, as others have pointed out, an unforgivable breach of ethics at play, too. Using the governor's blase´ disinformation as an excuse, some hotels are refusing to refund prepaid reservations, even though doctors advised the guests to leave the area. There is a basic maxim about hospitality (as cited in the college textbook "Marketing Hospitality") that goes something like this: A customer's positive experience with a hotel reflects positively on all others in the chain, while a negative experience is a black mark on all.
Δ kona visit
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