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Tourism’s Recovery Benefits Us All
This Op-Ed by Mike McCartney, president & CEO, HTA, ran in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on May 12 in celebration of Hawaii’s Tourism Month and National Travel & Tourism Week.
We are thankful that 2012 was an exceptional year for Hawai‘i’s visitor industry, highlighting record highs in arrivals and expenditures, and we are working hard to exceed these records this year. While it is easy to see how the visitor industry is prospering, the benefits reach far beyond Hawai‘i’s tourism economy.
Every day, an average $44 million was spent in Hawai‘i from January through March 2013: $21 million on Oahu, $12 million in Maui County, $6 million on Hawaii Island and $4 million on Kauai. This money was generated by visitor spending from meals and transportation to souvenirs and experiences, supporting hundreds of businesses across the state, contributing $5 million in state tax revenue per day.
More than 167,000 jobs are supported by tourism– from housekeeping to management, accounting to food and beverage – and with tremendous potential for growth. This industry never sleeps, and our employees work tirelessly to provide a quality experience for our guests.
With the recovery of Hawaii’s tourism economy, local girl Danna Holck was able to return to the islands after spending more than 20 years living and working in Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland. A Kailua High School graduate, she welcomed the opportunity to return the islands to work on Oahu’s north shore as the vice president and general manager at Turtle Bay Resort.
To keep talent like Danna home, the HTA has been working with the Department of Education to integrate career development programs into its curriculum. We also work with local non-profit, ClimbHi, for their LEI program that offers students across the state the opportunity to learn about viable career options in the visitor industry.
Tourism’s success is providing other opportunities in Hawaii. The numerous hotel development and revitalization projects continue to provide more jobs for local construction workers. And as more visitors look for authentic Hawaii experiences, many are traveling outside of Waikiki, which benefits smaller businesses across the state. The visitor industry also helps to attract world-class shops and restaurants that we, as residents, are able to enjoy.
As an island state, access is our lifeline and a key factor that allows our state to flourish. It provides us with an opportunity for leisure travel, as well as to conduct business, commerce and import goods. Our state services 954 flights per week, on 20 carriers that reach 53 cities across the globe – unusual for a destination of our size – and allows residents to travel the world. This is our competitive advantage.
As spending and arrivals continue in an upward swing, hotel occupancy and room rates are reaching all time highs. While this is benefiting our economy, we must be cognizant of visitors reaching their spending threshold in order to remain a competitive destination. It is our collective responsibility to maintain balance in order to ensure continued success, and times may be challenging ahead.
We must collectively support long term transformation and growth of our destination – from refreshing Waikiki and Hilo, expanding room inventory in Ko‘olina and the neighbor islands, to opening Kona as a second international port of entry. We will continue to strengthen our core markets and focus on diversifying and growing our developing global markets to maintain our market share.
We appreciate each and every one of our residents who make Hawaii one of the world’s greatest destinations, a place we call home. It is our people, place and culture that set us apart from anywhere else in the world. Like Aunty Pilahi Paki said, “The world will turn to Hawaii as they search for world peace because Hawaii has the key...and that key is aloha.”