The Conversation: What Will Become of Hawaii Tourism?

Oct 30, 2020

Views on a changing visitor industry and Iolani Palace update; Community view from Lanai; Using state lands for the homeless in Waimanalo; Displaced from Crane Park; Hui Aloha helping the homeless; Perpetuating Hawaiian music

Iolani Palace
Credit Noe Tanigawa/HPR

Views on a changing visitor industry and update from Iolani Palace

Kuuipo Kumukahi is a singer and cultural adviser, and also an educator, as you'll hear from one her former students, Jeninne Heleloa. A celebrated entertainer and recording artist, Kumukahi is Director of Hawaiian Culture at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa and sits on the Hawaii Tourism Authority board. She tells us what she sees for the visitor industry ahead. We also get an update from Iolani Palace. Journalist Paula Akana stepped in as Executive Director of the Friends of Iolani Palace just over a year ago. Akana says when the first COVID shutdown hit March 19, they faced a precipice. Ticket sales normally account for 93 percent of revenue, and they have no safety net. CARES Act funding and the community have saved the palace so far. Akana says their monthly nut is about $100,000 - if nothing breaks.

Community view from Lanai

Lanai recorded its first COVID cases Oct. 20. Just 10 days later, Lanai posted 97 positive cases. The island entered lockdown this week. After being virus free for seven months, Diane Preza, a former teacher who was born and raised on Lanai, what the community is saying about what happened.

Auntie Blanche McMillan and Mabel Keliihoomalu of Hui Mahiai Aina
Credit Noe Tanigawa/HPR

Using state lands for the homeless in Waimanalo

Let's turn to shelter. Housing. And look at it a few different ways. We'll start in Waimanalo, where Blanch McMillan is sheltering 52 formerly homeless people on a state parcel behind her family homestead on Hilu street. Auntie Blanche, as she's known, had the support of elected officials when she opened her shelter in March. As the homeless along Kalanianaole Highway at Waimanalo Beach Park expand, I've been hearing people are happy at Auntie Blanche's place, known as Hui Mahiai Aina shelter. Residents pay $120 a month and there are assinged jobs, rules, and curfews. (Click here to learn more about Hui Mahiaai Aina.) This past legislative session, SB 2206 was advancing, a bill that would encourage use of available state Department of Land and Natural Resources parcels for homeless shelters. It's part of an idea for group living, in kauhale, or small separate units while sharing utilities like a kitchen, showers, etc., much the same way that Hui Mahiai Aina works. Suzanne Case is the chair of the DLNR and tells us what she thinks of those efforts.

Kapahulu sidewalk by Crane Park
Credit Noe Tanigawa/HPR

Displaced from Crane Park

Recently, in the Kapahulu area, neighbors and businesses including at Market City have been alarmed at a group of forty or more homeless concentrated at Crane Park. We met Jonathan there a couple months ago. Homeless about three years now, his medical condition keeps him from holding a job. Crane Park is barricaded now, but one morning after a rain, I found Jonathan around the corner on Kapahulu Avenue. These days, the Honolulu Police Department offers their Provisional Outdoor Screening and Triage facility, or POST, a kind of tent village, to get people off the street. Jonathan gives us his perspective on the current situation.

Hui Aloha helping the homeless

James Koshiba consults on housing and makes a point of working with people in need to shape viable solutions. He is the founder and volunteer with Hui Aloha. They have a flourishing partnership with Puuhonua o Waianae, the homeless refuge at Waianae Boat Harbor. Click here for the Hui Aloha website.

Perpetuating Hawaiian music

Earlier in the show, Kuuipo Kumukahi gave some perspective from her perch as Hawaiian Culture Director with the Hyatt Regency Waikiki. She's also a Hawaii Tourism Authority board member. Importantly, Kumukahi is an educator and that's where it started for her current co-conspirator on the Hawaiian Music Perpetuation Society. Jeninne Heleloa says she's discovering the depth of Hawaiian music.

Halloween is Saturday, Oct. 31, and you're partying at home. The Hawaii Arts Alliance is bringing spooky stories right inside your house. 6 p.m. gather kids around, and terror for adults starting 8:30 a.m. At home. Could be very scary! Click here for tickets.

Lee Cataluna's new play at Kumu Kahua Theatre, Aloha Attire, is sold out. Island Insurance Foundation bought the entire run and is giving to the new community free. Mahalo Island Insurance! Free tickets to Lee Cataluna's new comedy about the 1980s in Hawaii, book 'em now at Kumu Kahua. Click here for tickets.