Hawai‘i’s idea of marketing itself as the “Safest Place on Earth” in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis is being met with some scepticism locally.
Last week,leaders in the Northern Pacific islands of Hawai‘i pointed to the US state’s relatively low number of Covid-19 cases as the key to marketing Hawai‘i as “The Safest Place on Earth”.
Most Hawai‘ian businesses remain closed and stay-home orders have not yet been lifted, – but plans are already in the works to begin remarketing the islands to tourists in the eventual wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tourism leaders have told the island’s politicians that “we have one chance to reopen and to re-brand Hawai‘i as the safest place on earth, and we should do it right.”
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green, during a news conference, noted Hawai‘i has one of the lowest Covid-19 fatality rates in the nation and has a very small number of cases compared with other US states.
“We have the secondary benefit when this ends – and it will end, whether it’s this fall or next spring – of being able to say we were the safest, healthiest state in the country, and maybe destination in the world, and I think that’s really going to speed up our recovery, too,” Green said.
“If Hawai‘i does come out of this pandemic as the safest place on earth, it would be a great triumph and the best silver lining imaginable,” columnist Lee Cataluna noted in the Honolulu Star Advertiser.
“The thing is, it needs to be more than a slogan or a re-branding. It has to be true. It has to be without an asterisk or any fine print. It has to be an ongoing mission.”
Hawai‘i can’t be the state that most effectively dealt with Covid-19 but unable to deal with the legions of homeless people living in unsanitary conditions, she said.
“If Hawai‘i is going to be marketed as the ‘safest place’ to tourists, we can’t still have an average of one tourist drowning in Hawai‘i waters every week, as has been the case in recent years.
“Nor would it fit the slogan if tourists continue to be injured or killed in hiking accidents and helicopter crashes, which have become all too frequent.
“If Hawai‘i is truly going to be the safest place on earth, it can’t be a place where little old ladies get knocked down and their purses snatched from their arms. The Honolulu Police Department needs to be up to full strength for Hawai‘i to be bragging about safest.”
The Hawai‘i tourism industry has long used the state’s reputation as a safe, clean and healthy place as a marketing tool, and that should continue,” Mufi Hannemann, president of the Hawai‘i Lodging and Tourism Association, said.
“It really makes sense, because that is what we have been known for prior to Covid, and now more so as we need to regain the trust and confidence of travellers and, most importantly, people here at home. That’s got to be our mantra,” said Hannemann, a former Honolulu mayor.
“Everybody’s buying into that, and that is exactly what we need to do.”
However not all Hawai‘ians are happy with the ‘safest’ slogan – and the plan to bring back huge numbers of tourists.
“This is terrible news for all residents of Hawai‘i,” one Star- Advertiser reader commented.
“It’s been nice having our island back from the grip of tourism, and greedy politicians eager to dip their beaks.”
“Hawai‘i will never be the safest place in the world, not even close,” another commented. “Statistics show this has never even been close to true. I doubt we can even be the safest place in the country. However, there’s nothing to stop marketers from trying to convince people to feel that way. After all, money talks.’
Another wrote: “It’s a dopey, reactionary slogan that caters to fear rather than honouring why our home is special and different. The more times I see and hear it, the dumber it gets.”
Another had this advice: “This pandemic has forever changed Hawai‘i tourism. The current financial models and visitor appeal programs that hotels and associated visitor industry businesses have worked under, need to be thrown out.
“It’s not only going to take ‘putting lipstick on a pig’ –it’s going to take real creative thinking.”