Convention center needs maintenance
A rise in tourism is expected this year, but state officials say more money is needed to maintain the convention center.
TOURISM is as robust as ever, and Hawaii officials are optimistic it will stay that way during this new year. Their only concern is that the Legislature approve expenditures to assure proper maintenance of the Hawai'i Convention Center
from revenue collected by the state tax on hotel room fees. That request is modest and should be honored.
Visitor arrivals totaled 7.4 million in 2005 and are expected to grow slightly this year, bringing in $11.8 billion, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. More than 80 percent of the state's 73,000 hotel rooms were filled through October of last year, a figure that makes hoteliers giddy.
"There's no room at the inn, so to speak," says Rex Johnson, the agency's president and chief executive. That being the case, much of this year's growth will come from the addition of a third cruise ship, Pride of Hawaii -- and its 6,890 floating hotel rooms -- to Norwegian Cruise Line's Hawaii fleet.
Taxes from hotel room fees generated nearly $200 million in state revenue in 2004. Last year's Legislature changed the state law to reduce the percentage that is supposed to go to the convention center, effectively reducing the center's share to $31 million from $32.5 million. Service debt and operating losses totaled $30 million, and Johnson says $1 million cannot adequately maintain the 8-year-old facility.
Legislators should resist the temptation to siphon money into the state's general fund and restore the percentage needed for the center's maintenance.
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