Kauai county officials have been screening a six-minute ocean safety video on four separate monitors in the baggage-claim area of Lihue Airport for just over a month, hoping the continuous broadcast will help people make better decisions at the island’s beaches and prevent drowning: the leading cause of Hawaii visitor fatalities.
According to Sue Kanoho, the executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau, the video is a way to remind travelers that considering the weather and ocean conditions is a crucial step when planning activities and excursions.
“People need to be more informed before they venture out,” she said. “When you think about nature in general, it’s extremely powerful and it requires respect, so being educated before you venture out is really important regardless of where you are, whether that’s in Hawaii or not and no matter which island you’re on.”
Eleven people have drown on Kauai this year, and eight of those individuals were visitors, Kanoho said, marking a dramatic increase from a total of just four Garden Isle drowning fatalities in all of 2012.
Seven of the eight visitors who drown on Kauai this year were out during high-surf advisories.
Kanoho said the Lihue Airport ocean safety video project has been in process for years and not a reaction to the spike in visitor drowning cases on Kauai this year, but she’s hopeful the video’s message will have an impact on those arriving to the island for vacations and that more will be done to educate visitors statewide.
“Every island has really had some challenges of late; it’s not just Kauai,” she explained. “We’ve certainly had visitors drown on other islands, [and] one is one too many.”
On Oahu, 14 visitors drown in 2012, according to the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s office, and there have been three visitor drowning fatalities there thus far in 2013.
Just two of the Oahu visitor drowning cases over the last 16 months occurred at beaches with lifeguard stations.
The numbers have been alarming enough that the Hawaii State Senate passed legislation earlier this year directing the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) to work with airlines and hotels on a safety video aimed at educating Aloha State travelers.
“It will be a welcome message that talks about safety and other important information to help arriving visitors,” Mike McCartney, the HTA president and CEO, told Travel Weekly. “We are going to work with the airlines to make that available on every flight, and it will be one comprehensive message, including everything from a welcome message to things like agriculture and invasive species to safety in the ocean and on the land.”
Although it’s still unclear which airlines would actually participate, McCartney was optimistic that the safety video might be ready as soon as this summer but also noted that the HTA is currently working on a comprehensive safety e-brochure for travel agents that is scheduled for completion by the end of the second quarter and would be available as a download.
“It will be in multiple languages and cover everything from travel insurance to water safety to hiking to driving, everything people need to know about being safe in Hawaii,” McCartney said.
Acknowledging the visitor drowning figures across Hawaii in recent months, McCartney said the HTA is committed to increasing the amount of safety information available to travelers, noting that Hawaii residents are often raised with knowledge many visitors lack.
“We were taught a long time ago as young kids to respect the ocean and never turn our back to it,” he said. “And we realize that kind of information has to be shared with our visitors.”
Travelers can screen the Kauai ocean safety video here or below and check out real time Garden Isle ocean and weather conditions at www.kauaiexplorer.com.
For detailed safety tips and real-time beach updates across the Aloha State, visit www.hawaiibeachsafety.org.