It began last November in London at the yearly-held World Travel Market by Reed International Travel Exhibitions. Chicago, Kenya, Indonesia, and Japan began linking then US president-elect Barack Obama’s roots to tourism. Every one of these tourism destinations had established their Obama connection. Then Hawaii, where President Barack Obama was born and raised, finally caught on and has been capitalizing on the great fortune of being linked to anything and everything about the current US president, including but not at all unexpected, shave ice.
Shave ice is a quasi-snack, but it really serves as a thirst quencher for islanders. Over the years, shave ice has become a kind of a tourist attraction as well. On Oahu’s North Shore, visitors flock in droves to line up at Matsumoto’s Shave Ice store. On any given hour during the daytime, one can expect to see people lining up for a taste of the world-renowned store’s shave ice.
More recently, another shave ice store on Oahu has been attracting visitors. The reason? US President Barack Obama. Right before his inauguration as the 44th president of the United States of America, the US president had spent time in Hawaii. It was during that visit that he took his daughters to an afternoon stroll and ended up at the Waiola Shave Ice store. He not only treated his daughters but bought some for his staff as well.
Since that Obama encounter, Waiola Shave Ice store has been featured on various local television news networks, and visitors have been flocking to the store for a taste of “Obama’s shave ice.” One elated tourist proudly said on a local television news channel that he sat at the same table where President Obama had his shave ice.
Also getting in on the Obama mania is the Baskin-Robbins ice-cream shop where he had his first job. It proudly proclaims, “Obama worked here.” It is located around the corner from his late grandmother’s nondescript apartment building and just steps from the “True Jesus Mission Church of the Latter Rain.”
Obama has ultimately become a beacon of hope for Hawaii tourism. No one can contest the fact that with his charisma and status, Obama is serving the aloha spirit to the world, and he is not shy about it. Every islander beamed with pride when they saw Obama flashed a “shaka” (popularly known as the hang loose sign) at his alma mater Punahou School’s marching band as they marched in the Inauguration Parade.
Hawaii tourism, while late in recognizing the importance of capitalizing on the Obama mania, stands to gain from the hype. Even something as simple as shave ice, thanks to Obama, are making travelers talk about Hawaii again. And that is the best public relations Hawaii tourism could ever ask for.