Travel in Hawaii, and moving to Honolulu

john.b

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#1
This won't be useful to so many people here related to work, but some might be curious how late-stage pandemic and economic impact have affected Hawaii. My family just moved from Bangkok to Honolulu, or at least that's in progress, with both kids having lived and went to school here for over a month. I'm still sorting out the main detail, employment, but working remotely from another country, for now.

Tourism is back, of course. Someone intimately familiar with the local industry, a real insider, would know how the numbers go, or if hotel room pricing ever fully recovered. I can only add that Waikiki looks a bit busy, and some restaurants seem full. At a guess it's not where it would've been pre-pandemic, and room rates never really recovered. That's a complete guess, since I'm trying to peg how limited demand shift affects that factor, and guessing out visitor demographics as an indicator based on memory from a long time ago, 15 years back, when I went to grad school at UH Manoa.

It's possible to still see a good number of vacant businesses; that's another indicator that the ramp-up isn't complete. Homelessness is on a completely new level since my school days, back in 2008. That's seemingly a recent change, but I'm not sure what that means, and discussion goes in a lot of directions. The local rumor / urban myth version is that people or government agencies in the mainland give free airline tickets to homeless people to "live in paradise," essentially to just go away. That sounds unlikely, but maybe. The strange part of that shift is that there were obviously mentally ill local homeless people 15 years ago, but there are several times over their earlier numbers now. How could that change so fast, if they were already here earlier on?

A related part I can't stop considering, but of course can't place, is if tourists seem different to me, if different nationalities, class levels, or sub-culture groups are more represented. I'll be blunt about one obvious change: a lot more visitors are black. As a liberal I can't read into that too much; it could mean a lot of different things, and I'm not hasty to apply judgment. One local rumor I've heard related to how different class ranges of people "discovered" Hawaii when covid era crashed tourism, causing radical discounting. If you visit the large, mainstream, above average cost hotels everyone looks the same to me, white, old, and out of shape. Often enough it seems like grandparents visit with teen grandchildren, or plenty of older people travel alone.

Japanese tourism seems to have been impacted; their economy hasn't been so strong for awhile. Of course Chinese tourism ended, but that was probably early in building up in 2008, when I was here, or maybe Hawaii never became a popular destination. There are a lot of nice beach areas to visit back in Asia, and Japan had their own connection with Hawaii, for whatever reasons.

It's hard to get this to overlap with travel recommendations. Hawaii is what it was, nice beaches, a fantastic environment, in either really crowded and developed areas (expensive), or in more isolated settings (even more expensive). We've been in other areas in Oahu since coming here, most of them, as it worked out, and the impact or change seems less significant there. Local people either had the financial stability to stick around and maintain their earlier lives or else could've left. Or some are those homeless people now? The local homeless camp on the far Western shore, where that had been most of it before, looks like I remembered it, as far as counting tents indicates population. Other small rows of tents in Honolulu are new.

The people are fantastic here; I'd like to end this on a positive note. Often that range of "aloha spirit" local themes ends up not meaning much, if you are a relative outsider, but not here, plenty of people are living that out. Until you give them a reason to see you as an ungrateful guest, but it's best to never go there, to join in that spirit instead of opposing it.
 
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