January 2, 2009

State clamps down on (some) commercial activity at Nawiliwili cruise ship arrivals

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics,Neighbor Island Politics — Doug @ 10:47 am

The Garden Island News reports on a new policy (put in place January 1st) that prohibits so-called “greeters,” i.e. workers representing commercial interests, from soliciting customers at the harbor where cruise ships arrive.

Greeters Ephraim Kaleiohi and Paulette Rosa bristled at the notion of a Nawiliwili without traditional greeters in a joint interview Wednesday, the day before the new policy was set to take effect.

“What they’re taking away is the aloha spirit,” said Kaleiohi, owner of Aloha Discovery Island Tours, noting that the hospitable act of greeting dated back to Capt. James Cook’s 18th-century arrival on Kaua‘i.

Rosa, a greeter for the free shuttle to Hilo Hattie, said any congestion issues at the harbor were due to security personnel not doing their jobs properly.

“There’s no leadership down there,” she said, adding that greeters actually help alleviate confusion by directing travelers toward where they want [?] to be.

“More than just representing the businesses they work for, greeters also provide a wide range of information about the island’s sights and activities,” explained Kmart greeter Steven Maze in a memorandum addressed to Davis Yogi, harbors administrator, and Mike Formby, deputy director of the state Department of Transportation. “Greeters are a part of the unique Hawaiian culture that attracts people to our islands.”

The State remains unpersuaded.

[DOT deputy director] Formby replied that for any commerce to take place in the harbor, a set of administrative rules governing policy needs to be in place. Since no rules have been published, he said, no business should be conducted inside the fences.

The ban will not keep commerce completely at bay. Formby and [Kauai Harbors district manager] Crowell said in phone interviews those tour operators who have pre-arranged customers are still allowed in to pick them up at the ship.


Formby said he does not want greeters inside the harbor, “yelling and shouting,” to be viewed as solicitors or “hawks.”

“You’ve already got the driver of the bus,” he said. “Why do you need another person whose purpose is to hold the sign and encourage you to go to that store and buy goods?”

“Hustling people … has been a no-no from the word go,” Crowell said.

Wait, which is it? There needs to be rules before any commerce, or some commercial activity is allowed during the rulemaking process while other commerce is forbidden? Leaving aside the merits and demerits of these “greetings,” this adhocracy is unfair and Formby is acting capriciously.

Some of the greeters’ complaints may be based on economics as much as they are on cultural differences.

The competition for dwindling tourism dollars from cruise ship visitors — Formby called it a “turf war” and Crowell said between 1,900 and 2,500 visitors arrive by boat each day — may be decided not by the boat-side sales pitch but instead by the advance marketing campaign.

If that is the case, operators like Polynesian Adventure Tours, a Norwegian Cruise Line subsidiary, could have a distinct inherent advantage over the smaller independent companies like Aloha Discovery Island Tours if activities coordinators on ships steer more customers their way.

“How can you not have greeting in Hawai‘i?” Kaleiohi asked. “It’s like taking food out of my mouth.”

Unfortunately for Mr. Kaleiohi, the price of his tours undercut those of the NCL/Polynesian Adventure Tours. Now, take a guess which company is more politically active. NCL has lobbyists, but I don’t see Kaleiohi or Aloha Discovery Island Tours on the lists of represented companies and lobbyists. I didn’t even check the campaign spending records, but my hunch is that NCL is much more loose with the campaign money, too.

Clearly, there are some parallels with the beach wedding issue I wrote about on November 11*. In both cases, the State is beginning to regulate commerce on State property and facing resistance over the change.

* That post was part of the “pre-HD-failure” Poinography, but I have a local cache of my blog (minus the comments) that I’m trying to figure out how to include on this re-launched Poinography. Since I only have those old posts in raw html (and not the MySQL database) the internal cross-post linkages are going to be a big challenge, so I may just punt on that aspect of the archive.

1 Comment »

  1. “There needs to be rules before any commerce, or some commercial activity is allowed during the rulemaking process while other commerce is forbidden? Leaving aside the merits and demerits of these “greetings,” this adhocracy is unfair and Formby is acting capriciously.”

    When I read that line, I thought immediately of the beach issue, which you went on to mention shortly afterward.

    “Adhocracy”? What a GREAT word! Capricious action in the absence of rules? By George, er, Doug, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head!

    BTW, when I’ve posted of late and gone back to the main page, it still shows “0 comments” (or the same number as before I posted). But when I click on “comments,” the recent post is there. Perhaps there are other gremlins in your reboot.

    DOUG: I can’t take the credit for coining ‘adhocracy,’ though I wish I could.

    All the comments go into a queue before going online. That allows me to filter out the spam. If you post a comment and it still is not online after a day or so, then let me know (and/or try posting your comment again). Also, you may need to hit “refresh” on your browser.

    Comment by Ted — January 2, 2009 @ 4:07 pm

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