When you think of a vacation in Hawaii, you probably picture pristine waters filled with colorful marine life, days spent sunning on the beach and leisurely swims in the sunshine. But it’s not all sea turtles and gentle spray, say state lawmakers. In an effort to curb a spike in drowning deaths, the state Senate and the Kauai Visitors Bureau are asking airlines to show arriving tourists an ocean safety video. But not everybody thinks that’s a great idea.
The Kauai airport already shows the ocean safety video to educate tourists about the dangers of certain areas, reports the Associated Press, and some state lawmakers want tourists to see that video before they even land. Critics of that idea worry, however, that talking about scary stuff like drowning will scare visitors away.
Drownings are the leading cause of death for people visiting Hawaii, and those numbers are going up: With 11 deaths so far this year, Kauai is close to tripling the four drowning deaths it had on the island in 2012 in just four months this year.
“Eleven at this stage of the year is a huge concern,” says the executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau. “One is one too many.”
A proposal in the state Senate passed this month to encourage the spread of the ocean safety video with the help of the Hawaii Tourism Authority and airlines, but is just a non-binding statement. Airlines still have to decide whether or not they want to include the video, as each carrier has control over what they content they show in-air.
So far Hawaiian Airlines says it included ocean safety videos on flights in the past, and would be open to doing so again. But then there are all the other national and international airlines, which might worry about losing out on customers over fear of drowning.
A companion resolution to the state Senate’s proposal failed to pass the House, as lawmakers cited similar concerns.
“You don’t want to be on a plane and see people getting eaten by sharks,” said Rep. Tom Brower, adding that while it’s important to educate tourists, “you don’t want to beat people over the head with it.”
Meanwhile the Kauai tourism director says she’s working on reaching out to guidebooks and anyone else that could help bring awareness to tourists before they set out in the ocean or go tromping through the mountains. She admits, however, that some things are just common sense.
“If you’re drunk and you’re jumping off a cliff, I can’t be putting up signs for that,” she said. “Everybody needs to take responsibility.”