When tourism falters, it hurts everyone in Hawaii
The question has been asked many times by many people over the years: What percentage of Hawaii's population works in the tourism industry? The answer to that question during the past 20 years has been somewhere between 25 percent and 32 percent, give or take a point or two.
The real question for all us stakeholders -- in the travel industry and not -- is, What percentage of Hawaii's population is financially influenced or dependent on Hawaii's tourism industry? And who on these islands is not hurt by a loss of tourism? The homeless? No, for they are dependent on tax dollars that provide programs of help and recovery.
If tourism is down, if a couple of airlines disappear or even a small hotel, the welfare of an entire island can be affected. To what degree Molokai's fortunes will turn because of loss of tourism, we have yet to discover. Do residents of Maui, Oahu, Kauai or Hawaii actually believe they are different?
Two years ago, 40 percent of real estate sales on Kauai were from the mainland. That is a substantial amount of conveyance tax alone! Tourism is down, Kauai's real estate market is off, tax dollars are down and projects for the homeless will not get funded. None of this is coincidence. The homeless numbers are up. Is that due to a slowing of tourism? Not specifically, but that slowing is seen to be woven into the overall funding of all Department of Human Services projects -- including, I'm afraid, employee training. Tourism slowing seems to be woven into construction and certainly the construction unions.
Right behind the financial aspect from loss of tourism comes the loss spiritually, culturally, emotionally ... even socially. We are all touched in one way or another by the ebb and flow of Hawaii's tourism industry. The military is involved; they have to get here, pay the airfares. The medical profession, real estate, education, finance, retail and so on -- all are undeniably affected with the coming or not coming of tourists.
Even Hawaii's indigenous peoples and their organizations get funding that is fed by tourism dollars.
The housing dilemma on the mainland, the cost of oil, war ... all of them end up extending to and becoming a tourism challenge -- our challenge, not just 25-32 percent of us.
Jim Cone is president of Matrix Media of Hawaii Inc.