Some come to see Waikiki, Diamond Head and the view from the Nuuanu Pali Lookout. Others want to see the lava flows or the telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea. Still others want to gaze at Waimea Canyon or the Na Pali Coast. Haleakala attracts more than a million visitors every year.
Now entrepreneurs are scrambling onto a new tourism bandwagon: Places with Connections to Barack Obama, who will become our 44th president in January.
Tour companies are reporting that there’s a growing demand from visitors who are eager to learn more about the Hawaii-born Obama, who spent all his formative years in the Islands, and they’re cranking up the tour machines. Several companies have modified existing bus tours to create smaller companies that offer special Obama tours; others are creating tours from scratch.
There also are stops outside of Punahou School, where Obama attended from 1971 until high school graduation in 1979. The school is politely referring people to its Web site (www.punahou.edu) instead of the campus, where they are not equipped to handle public tours.
Will this be a tourism boom, or will the interest fade after the inauguration in January? A lot of companies are betting on the boom, but only time will tell.