HONOLULU, HI (eTN) – In an article about the potential boycott on Hawaii due to Governor Linda Lingle’s veto of the civil union bill, Jo-Ann Adams, chairwoman of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Caucus of the Hawaii state Democratic Party, said a boycott would mostly hurt the hotel industry and its workers. For someone who is from here, the simplistic nature of her statement is startling.
First of all, tourists arrive to the islands by air and sea, so a downturn in tourists arriving is going to affect the airline industry and the cruise industry. Second, tourists generally eat when they’re on vacation – that’s going to affect the restaurant industry and the grocery stores as well. Third, tourists like to visit places when they are here, which will affect the transportation industry. Fourth, tourists often buy souvenirs when they are here, and that will affect the stores that sell them and the companies that manufacture them.
From this generalized pool of industries, the vastness of who that will affect is immense – it’s like dominos tumbling down upon each other. There are less tourists arriving, so the airlines and cruise companies cut back on flights and trips, and some flight attendants, cargo handlers, and cruise workers get laid off. So do some reservationists and some people at a travel agency.
Tourists are not filling up the hotels, so not very many rooms need to get cleaned, and so some housekeepers, maintenance people, and front desk workers are laid off. And the laundry that cleans the hotel linens has to lay off some employees.
There are less tourists eating in restaurants, so waiters, busboys, and cooks get laid off. With less food to cook, farmers lose some business and they have to lay off workers, and distributors have less to distribute, so some truck drivers lose their jobs.
The tourists are not buying souvenirs, so some ABC employees lose their jobs, as do some employees of the companies making those souvenirs because production has gone down.
The more you think about the interconnected fabric of the tourism industry, the more it boggles the mind. And now we have all these unemployed residents who are forced to cut back on their spending, and so the economy weakens even further.
The truth is the tourism industry touches the vast majority of jobs in Hawaii in one way or another. So will a boycott on Hawaii hurt the state? Of course it will. Will it hurt only the hotels and their workers? Definitely not. This whole scenario brings to mind a commercial that used to play in the islands in the mid 80s to stress to those of who live here the importance of the tourist industry. The point of the commercial was to address the need to practice Aloha with our visitors, and it tracked a US$20 bill that is first spent by a tourist and how it circulates within the local economy. Perhaps we need to go back to that mind set of how important Aloha is to our tourism industry.
How can we speak out of both sides of our mouth and expect visitors will still want to come here? We cannot say, “E Komo Mai,” welcome – except for you who are gay. And isn’t that really what we are saying when we say no to civil unions? For a place that likes to call itself a “melting pot,” we sure are being selective about who gets to meld with us.