Isle tourism panel says spending needs hike
The Hawaii Tourism Authority's budget panel is proposing a roughly 20 percent increase in tourism-related spending next year, setting aside millions of dollars more for public relations, product development, safety and security as well as airline related marketing.
State tourism liaison Marsha Wienert said yesterday that most of the increases proposed in the $87.68 million budget will be used to "insulate the industry against ups and downs." The money also will be used to improve relations between the state's visitor industry and residents, she said.
Last year, the state coped with heavy rains, a sewage spill, a deadly dam break on Kauai, shark bites and drownings, and crimes against visitors. Fuel price spikes impacted flight prices and air seats. The industry also faced a tight labor market and increasingly negative views of tourism by Hawaii residents.
Reduced availability of hotel rooms and flights as well as high airline fuel surcharges contributed to a softening of Japanese tourism in Hawaii, pulling down arrivals and visitor spending from that country.
While total visitor spending in Hawaii hit a record $12 billion in 2006, the mild 2.9 percent increase over 2005 left some officials concerned about a continued loss of ground with Japanese visitors, traditionally the state's biggest spenders. The decline in international travelers to Hawaii flattened overall arrival figures for 2006 at 7.4 million, and total visitor days were 0.3 percent below the record set in 2005. The lone strong spot was the state's westbound visitor market.
Highlights of proposed budget include: a $1.4 million increase in airline related marketing programs, a $2.3 million increase in public relations and communications, a $1.35 million increase in safety and security, a $1.6 million increase in product development.
Marketing money will be used to beef up joint advertising campaigns with Hawaii's airline partners and to spotlight the revival of Waikiki, Wienert said. A large portion of security money will be used to fund a study in June that will identify ways to make Hawaii safer for visitors, she said. More money will also be available for Hawaii events and product enrichment programs, Wienert said.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority's board of directors will meet May 31 to vote on these recommendations from the Budget Audit Committee.