Big boats bring in the money
Last Sunday's Star-Bulletin had hardly hit the streets before I started receiving e-mail regarding the effects of the Ala Wai harbor's dock condemnations on the Transpacific Yacht Race.
One boater in particular asked, "If Transpac wants to have dock space in our harbor every other year, shouldn't it give Hawaii something in return?"
His question made me start digging through old files and columns because, unfortunately, there haven't been any recent comprehensive studies made of the economic impact of such boating activities.
In the early 1990s, economists like Dr. Craig MacDonald, Mike Markrich, and Athline Clark produced a series of studies for the state's Department of Business and Economic Development that analyzed Hawaii's total ocean recreation industry.
One of its studies presented data that identified the economic contributions of personal recreational boating specifically to Hawaii's economy.
It analyzed the physical characteristics of our boating infrastructure as to the quality and number of marinas, launching ramps, and boats, as well as the number of boat dealers, hardware stores, and repair shops.
That study determined that recreational boating contributed -- directly and indirectly -- about $85 million annually to Hawaii's economy, in spite of being greatly hampered by inadequate berthing, dry storage, and launching facilities.
Another of their studies looked at competitive ocean recreation events such as fishing tournaments, surfing contests, canoe races, triathlons and yacht racing. At that time, the latter two events lead the others with individual estimated gross revenues of some $14 million per year.
It should be noted, of course, that the hugely popular Kenwood International Offshore Series contributed greatly to the total yacht racing revenues then, and it is no longer being run. Still, Markrich told me then that the Transpacific Yacht Race alone brought in more than $1 million biennially into our state's economy.
So, adjusting for inflation and the fact that the Transpac fleet has nearly doubled in size since the early 1990s, the 2005 race may have contributed as much as $3 million. And it would follow that the same should hold true for 2007.
This revenue is the direct result of having perhaps 70 sailboats, ranging in size from 30 to 90 feet and from two to a dozen crewmembers aboard, race into Honolulu.
Many of the crewmembers have family and friends who fly here, rent cars and hotel rooms, dine out at our restaurants, relax in our nightclubs, visit our numerous attractions and often travel to our neighbor islands.
Naturally, our boatyards and repairmen -- from electricians to sailmakers -- also benefit from the arrival of this huge fleet of yachts, as there are always repairs to be made before the vessels head back to the mainland.
Finally, I told my questioning Ala Wai boater, if he would like someone else's opinion, just ask the managers of the Hawaii or Waikiki yacht clubs.
They know an economic windfall when they see one.