Kona and Kohala are​ still open for Business!

 

This week, I’ve had plenty of guests express to me that they contemplated canceling their trip to the Big Island because of the volcanic activity.  “The news had me thinking that the entire island was about to be covered in lava and ash!” said a woman visiting from New York.  “I almost canceled our trip.” she continued.  It was a good thing that she decided to contact the Kona hotel, that she booked with.  They informed her that Hawaii Island is big, and the volcano, as well as the new fissures are about 100 miles away and that she would be in no danger of lava on her trip.

On May 3rd, Kilauea began spitting out lava from new vents forming in the middle of a Southern East coast subdivision, Leilani Estates.  This news, as I mentioned in last week’s blog, has been extremely sensationalized.  This fear-based news coverage has caused many people to cancel their trips to the Big Island.  Bookings for hotels, tours, and other activities have experienced a 50% decline. Tally up the costs, May-July, to the tune of 5 million dollars!

Perhaps now would be a good time to take advantage of great deals, as airlines and business would like everyone to know that most of the island is not threatened by the lava flow.

“Travelers can enjoy their vacation experience in the Hawaiian Islands to the fullest, with the only word of caution being that they stay out of areas closed to the public for their own safety.”

                          -George D. Szigeti, president, and CEO of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority

Tourism is one of Hawaii’s biggest industries and a big part of the local economy.  Yes, lava is flowing.  Yes, structures (including about 27 homes) have been destroyed.  The mainstream national news would have you believe that it is the entire State and not a remote area of The BIG Island. There are thousands of people still arriving at Kona and Hilo airports and enjoying this beautiful island.  Today people; swam with dolphins in the pristine blue water, went on deep ocean fishing expeditions, hiked amazing trails, and enjoyed the amenities of world-class resorts. The Hilton Waikoloa Village has been operating at about full capacity since the eruption. The Hilton, just as the other breathtaking hotels of the Kohala coast, is not affected by the current volcanic activity.   Now, if you booked your stay at a bed and breakfast in Leilani Estates or the surrounding area, yes, you may want to reconsider.  Hawi, Waimea, and Kona-Kohala are still open for you to enjoy!  Hope to see you in the Kona sun!

Kilauea Is Not Mount Vesuvius!

By now, I think the entire world is aware of the latest volcanic activity of Kilauea on Hawaii Island.

As serious as the situation is, the corporate news outlets have used sensational headlines such as: “Volcano erupts in Hawaii forcing thousands to evacuate!”, “Volcano alert urges Hawaii’s Big Island residents to get out!”, and “Hawaii residents flee after Kilauea volcano eruptions”.  All of these statements are correct but designed to promote fear and panic, instead of informing.
I am not trying to downplay the severity of this event at all.  I just think, for the people outside of Hawai’i Island, especially those that have family and friends here, have been whipped into a frenzy by the corporate news coverage.  Images of Mount Saint Helen’s or Pompeii comes to their minds (Plinian Eruptions) when they hear of an imminent volcano eruption.  There were even erroneous reports of Oahu residence being evacuated because of the volcanic eruption (No need to call out that network.  All local people are hip to who it was.). Oahu is an entirely different island. Why would they be so careless in their coverage?  TV networks need people to tune into their channel.  The thinking is; the more sensational the story, the more viewers they will attract.  The more viewers they attract, the more they can charge advertisers.  It’s all about revenue (topic for another time.).

Hawaii Island Map of East Rift Zone
New Fissures Along the East Rift Zone

Here are a few points that I think people should be mindful of:

  • Kilauea has been flowing since 1983
  • Kilauea is a shield volcano with a very different eruption style than a composite cone (aka stratovolcano)
  • As of today (May 8th) 37 structures have been lost to the lava flow. Yes, people have lost their homes and it is possible that there will be more
  • Leilani Estates and Lanipuna subdivisions have been evacuated, approximately 1800, displaced from their homes with an uncertainty of ever being able to return to them
  • Sulfur dioxide is emanating from the eruption site, making it a dangerous situation for the young, elderly, and those with respiratory conditions.
  • NO ONE has died or been injured
  • This is precisely how the Hawaiian Islands were formed

If you would like to take a break from all of the sensational presentations of what’s going on, I encourage you to visit the site links below:

U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory site:  Click Here

County of Hawaii’s Civil Defence:
Message and alerts page Click Here

If you would like to support the displaced families of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna, please contact the following initiatives and groups for info on how you can help:

Grassroots community led Pu’uhonua o Puna.  For their FaceBook page Click Here
Hilo-born Major League Baseball player Kolten Wong, of the St. Louis Cardinals, is leading a GoFundMe campaign for the families: Click Here

Hawaii Island Map of Lava History
Lava Has Been Flowing For Years

 

Hawaii Island Hazard Zones
Lava Hazard Zones

Is UBER a Worthwhile Alternative To a Taxi, In Kona?

The name UBER has some taxi drivers all over the world shaking in their boots. The Kona market is no exception. Viewed as a threat by some, UBER entered the Kona transportation market as a lower cost, ride-share option for customers, one year ago.

In March of 2017 UBER began offering its service on Hawai’i Island.  Having informational meetings in Hilo as well as Kona, their search was on to find drivers to fill the anticipated demand.   They seemed to be successful in their recruitment efforts, as evidenced by the fact that there ARE UBER drivers!
UBER vs. Taxi

I have a few friends that are UBER drivers, and I’m constantly asking them about the process and their experience(s).  The responses are varied.  Some really enjoy it.  Some like and dislike aspects of it.  And there are those that hate that they are driving for UBER.  The ones that enjoy driving for UBER speak of how cool many of the UBER users are.  They also appreciate the fact that there is a great deal of freedom associated with making the additional income.  The ones that have mixed reviews also speak of the interesting customers they pick up, however, they’re not too fond of the compensation scheme.   The ones that did not like the UBER driver experience state that in addition to the low pay, “…you have to be tethered to your phone and if you’re not quick enough on accepting an assignment you could lose it.”  I gather, it’s a great side gig for some but not so great for others.  The most pleased with the service has been, by far,  the frugal traveler.

At the Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole, you may see people walking up Airport road, in the direction of Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway, dragging along their luggage.  After seeing this more and more, thinking it’s not too safe, I decided to stop and ask a couple why they were walking up the road.  They told me that they are heading to the highway to wait for their UBER ride. I remember thinking “Wow! UBER must be offering  quite the deal, for people to want to walk that half a mile with their stuff and risk being struck by a car.”  I get it. You gotta do what you gotta do.  As of today, the airport does not allow UBER drivers to pick up customers from the airport.  Taking a walk up the hill has been their solution, thus far.

For the passengers, as I see it, here are the pros and cons.
Pros:

  • Lower costs transportation
  • Cash-free transactions
  • A network of regular people (This could be “good” or “bad”)

Cons:

  • No airport pickup,
  • Prices are not state regulated,
  • Not always available,
  • Dependent on access to mobile signal (a challenge for some areas of the Big Island)

Things change.  Industries change.  As in all business, innovations that will keep your service or product relevant is a must for survival.  The creators of UBER have done just that.  They have taken a general need- transportation, and with the aid of some software technology and  “regular” people and their vehicles, and reimagined how a person could get from point A to point B in a cost-effective manner.  I think it was a  bold and creative innovation, but far from the panacea of taxi alternative transportation.

Instead of taxi drivers thinking how can they stop UBER, they should be coming together to think of innovative ways to make their service more appealing to potential customers.  This business of moving people from one place to the next is not complex.  What differentiates one driving service from the next is price, reliability, and quality of service.  Taxi drivers will not be able to compete with UBER in the area of costs but they CAN compete in the area of reliability and quality of service and that is where the customers will sort themselves out.  Some will focus solely on price point, and go with UBER while others will consider convenience and reliability and go with a reputable taxi service.  This is not to say that UBER drivers are not reliable or do not provide quality service, I am suggesting that the seasoned professionals that have been state-regulated should have a leg up in the department of quality of service.  They should, anyway.  What has been your experience with UBER and Taxis on the Kona-Kohala Coast?

Checking Out The Manta Rays

Manta Ray Dives of Hawaii is a Kona highlight experience!

Manta Ray Floats By
Manta Rays. A Top Kailua-Kona Attraction!

As a driver, people ask me all the time about fun activities to do on the Kona-Kohala coast. “How are the manta dives?” is a common question.   “I’ve heard it’s a fun activity.”, is all I could say.  I did not have a firsthand experience to share.  Well…  that has recently changed, as I had the privilege of going out on a night snorkel with Manta Ray Dives Hawaii!  It was an AMAZING experience!

Honokohau Harbor is the jump-off spot. That is where we board the boat and meet the lively crew members.  After a quick round of introductions, which included reciting a line from one of your favorite movies, crew and participants, we were off!

Boat Sets Out For Manta Ray Dive Site
Boat Sets Out For Manta Ray Dive Site.

The boat traveled North for, what seemed like, 15 minutes. Once we arrived at the dive site, there was still a need for the sun to go down before we could begin the activity.  The time was not wasted, as the crew used this opportunity give us a safety briefing and a quick education on; plankton, manta rays in general, as well as the manta rays of the area.  These graceful animals are protected by the State.  Each of them has been identified, named, and recorded.

About 20 minutes have passed since we dropped anchor.  The sun was setting.  Time to suit up and enter the water!  The scuba divers entered first, and us snorkelers followed.   Five or six to a group.  What looked like, a modified surfboard with PVC tubing attached around, as handles, was our magnificent manta viewer apparatus (Not sure what they called this device, so I’ll rock with my name for it. Lol).  At the center of the board was a bright light shining down into the water.  The group gathered around the boards by gripping the PVC piping.  With the light flashing down, plankton was drawn to it.  Plenty of fish gathered around to eat the plankton, but they all moved out of the way when the mantas arrived.
Almost immediately, from the depths of the ocean darkness, a large manta ray appeared!

Manta Ray Night Dive
D The Driver On Deck!

Gliding towards us with a smooth confidence, was a creature with a six-foot wingspan. Wooooo!  I was in awe!   One after the other, they continued to appear.  I know they came to feed, but it felt like they were performing for us.  Doing graceful flips. ascending and descending in slow motion. Some cool $#!^!

 

When you come to Kona and you want to have an awesome “EcoAdventure”, be sure to hit up Manta Ray Dives of Hawaii!  Oh yeah….  I can drive you there!

For more information, visit their site:
http://www.mantaraydiveshawaii.com