From Aloha to Riots? The future of Tourism in Hawaii

A U.S. Military General rang the alarm bells for Hawaii today, warning of possible riots in the Aloha State. His message:
Open up of face violence.

No matter if you’re employed in the travel and tourism industry, tourism is the livelihood for people in the 1,2 million people living in the US State of Hawaii.

Hotels were at capacity, no seats empty on most flights. This was the situation just two months ago. Today Hawaii only has a few hundred tourists. Hotels, shops, and restaurants are closed, roads are empty. A drive on Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenue today shows the situation in Waikiki demonstrating how dead the travel and tourism industry is at this time.

From full employment two months ago and today the State has the highest unemployment rate (percentage) in the nation.

With only 50 people still having active Coronavirus on all islands combined, and a total of 17 dead, it is almost a miracle how people had been spared so far from mass casualties and infections.

Lt. Governor Green, an emergency physician credited the Aloha Spirt and relaxed atmosphere and strict measures put in place by Governor Ige and Honolulu Caldwell.

While other states with a lot higher infection rates are opening up, Hawaii remains closed. 

Driving on Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenue in Waikiki today

Tourism is now often a crime if visitors leave a hotel room during the mandatory 14 days quarantine. Homestay apps are now the target of investigations claiming visitors may be able to get around the strict quarantine requirements.

It’s certainly no longer fun to visit the Aloha State, and a new era of tourism will have to be behind the beautiful rainbow.

The calm may be a matter of time. Once the State runs out of unemployment money, once people can no longer afford housing, insurance, and food, the writing is on the horizon. This writing may mean protests and in the worst case civil unrest or even riots.

Today Major General Hara, the incident Commander of Hawaii’s new coronavirus response, today warned as he addressed fellow members of the House Select Committee and predicted a potential Hawaii riot. “At some point, we need to accept risks”, he said.

Opening the State for tourism may be necessary to rescue the economy, but it may be a deadly and a short-lived solution. Not doing it may bankrupt the state and maybe the beginning of a violent not-controllable recession.

Hara told eTurboNews: “It is not my decision on how much risk the State takes.  It is the Governor’s ultimate decision-taking in advice from his cabinet, business and health care leaders, and the state legislature.  It is premature to state the risk level as this is being worked as we speak.”

“At some point, we need to accept risks,” Major General Kenneth Hara, Incident Commander of Hawaii’s new coronavirus response, warned as he addressed fellow members of the House Select Committee and predicted a potential Hawaii riot.

When eTurboNews asked if opening the economy will prevent such possible riots, the Major General said: “I stated that rioting could occur if the economy does not open – not that it will definitely occur.  That said, If we open the economy and people can return to their jobs to pay bills and buy food and necessity then that will significantly reduce the threat of civil disorder.”

When asked about experts warning that there may be a second and more deadly wave of the virus in the pipeline, the General said: “This scenario is significantly less likely as we are working hard to identify the indicators that could lead to an uncontrolled wide community spread of COVID-19.  The state is committed to ensuring that our healthcare system does not get overwhelmed. We’ve got to accept the fact that people will become infected” and push Hawaii’s health care system “without exceeding the ICU and ventilator capacity.”

Is this the way forward for Hawaii? To knowingly allow people to become infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus in the name of opening up the economy? Is this what our state of mind has and final point of economic departure come to – that the only way to avoid civil unrest is to tell people it really isn’t “safer at home,” because we need to pump money into the Hawaii economy?

And what about the frontline healthcare workers who have been literally putting their lives on the line during this pandemic? It’s okay now to tell them, we need money, so even though we know people are going to become infected and we are keeping you on the front line to face this, you’re just going to have to toughen up and deal with it?

Major General Hara said: “If we let the economy go the way it’s going, I feel there will be significant civil unrest that could lead to civil disobedience and, worst case, civil disturbance and rioting.”

Is Major General Hara from Hawaii? Because it sure does not seem like it. People in Hawaii do not like to engage in confrontation. They will if they have to, of course, but as a general rule, Hawaiians are peace-loving and adaptable.

Could there really be people out there staying in their “hales” (homes) that believe we are not going to have to fight an economic battle because of coronavirus? Does Major General Hara think Hawaii’s citizens are really that low on intelligence?

This kind of a not-well-thought-out response to the pending economic uphill climb that puts Hawaii’s citizens in alarm status is like adding fuel to the potential fire.

eTurboNews would love to hear your thoughts on this. Please share your comments (below the article)

Major General Kenneth S. Hara assumed his duties as the Adjutant General for the State of Hawaii, Department of Defense, on December 6, 2019. On 20 February 2018, MG Hara was dual-hatted as the Deputy Chief of Staff, Army National Guard, Operations G3, Eighth United States Army Korea, Camp Humphreys, South Korea.

In 1987, General Hara received his commission as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry through the Hawaii Military Academy, Officer Candidate School, Hawaii Army National Guard. He has served in numerous positions of increased authority and responsibility from platoon leader and most recently as the commanding general of the Hawaii Army National Guard.

In 2005, MG Hara deployed as the commander of the 2nd Battalion 299th Infantry to Baghdad, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2008, he deployed to Kuwait as the deputy commander of the 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. In 2012, General Hara deployed a third time as the commander of the Operations Coordination Center – Regional Command South, Security Forces Assistance Advisory Team, Kandahar, Afghanistan.

In addition to his Federal mobilizations, General Hara served on several state missions in support of local authorities. Most notable were his duties as the Assistant Operations

Am officer with the 2d Battalion, 299th Infantry following Hurricane Iniki which on September 11, 1992, devastated the island of Kauai; as Task Force KOA commander, comprised of Hawaii Army Soldiers and Air National Guard Airman, that conducted National Guard Civil Support operations following an earthquake that struck the island of Hawaii on October 15, 2006; and as the Dual Status Commander of Joint Task Force – 50 in support of the Kilauea volcanic eruption and Hurricane Lane responses in 2018. MG Hara served as the Deputy Adjutant General, State of Hawaii, Department of Defense from October 2015 until December 2019.

General Hara’s military education includes the United States Army War College at Car-lisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, Command and General Staff Officer Course from the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Combined Arms Service Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Combined Logistics Officer Advanced Course at Fort Lee, Virginia, Initial Entry Rotary Wing Course at Fort Rucker, Alabama and the Infantry Officer Basic Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.

He holds a Masters of Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Human Services from Hawaii Pacific University.

General Hara’s awards and decorations include the Combat Infantryman Badge, Army Aviator Badge, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Commendation Medal with Silver Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Army Achievement Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters.

He is married to the former Myoung Park and has five children, Kristin, Julia, Nichole, Justin, and Alicia. 

The Hawaii Wholesale Tourism Association will be holding a zoom call on May 13 with Dr. Peter Tarlow from Safer Tourism to discuss safety, security in the Aloha State after COVID-19. Click here to register