Hawaii’s New Presidential Attractions

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.

    Here are some of the stops being considered or already incorporated:

  • A stroll past the apartment tower where Obama and his late grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, lived
  • Another apartment building where Obama’s mother and sister lived briefly
  • The Baskin-Robbins ice cream parlor where he worked as a teenager
  • Sandy Beach, on Oahu’s east shore, where he surfed as a teenager, and then swam during his vacation in August
  • The Chowder House restaurant, a modest local eatery in a shopping center near Downtown Honolulu
  • The site where Obama’s high-school basketball team regularly went to eat
  • The bakery where the team devoured malasadas
  • The local fast-food places where they consumed plate lunches
  • His birthplace, Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children
  • The school where he went to kindergarten
  • The University of Hawaii, where his parents met
  • Halona Blowhole, where Obama scattered his mother’s ashes and tossed a lei into the water in her memory in August

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.

Stay tuned.

Posted by: Bruce Fisher