Hawaii must change course to revive its image as a desirable tourist destination
I read with interest the June 24 Star-Bulletin business story "U.S. airline shutdown bad for Hawaii."
If any of the major airlines cease operation, undoubtedly there will be disruption in the movement of people and goods. But if Hawaii as a destination is able to maintain and stimulate demand, new and more efficient airlines will replace these disappearing dinosaurs.
Hawaii has seen a consistent decline in visitors arrivals for some time, and I am not sure that this should be blamed on the shortage of airline seats. Airlines are not in the business of creating demand for destinations, but rather to service and stimulate an existing demand, which for Hawaii seems to be rather weak. There lies the root of the problem, and we should ask ourselves, "Why?"
"As in any business there have been casualties in the industry and airlines that could not adapt to the new competitive environment succumbed. But when one airline folded, two immediately sprang up, filling the void and providing the opportunity for people to travel at a price they could afford.
But first we must give visitors a reason to come to Hawaii. The weather is just about the only thing we have left to offer.
Some officials probably will say, "We have seen this before, tourism will bounce back, blah, blah, blah."
"The question is, will tourism bounce back one more time or have we gone too far in turning Hawaii from a vacation heaven into the type of urban center that can be found anywhere?
If the latter is the case, we are removing most of the reasons for visitors to come here. You know what this will do to our economy.
Hawaii has no real dependable economy. The only economy is the visitor industry and we seem to do our best to drive the visitors away.
Visitors come here in search of paradise, sandy beaches and a relaxing atmosphere. What they get instead is stress, traffic jams, endless construction sites and so on.
While some of the reasons for the decline in visitor arrivals might be attributed to the economic slowdown (this should not be the case with countries with strong currency against the U.S. dollar), I suspect that one of the principal reasons can be found in what has been done to Hawaii.
Unscrupulous developers and blind officials have turned this once idyllic paradise into an unpleasant urban development and an oversized shopping mall. It does not take a genius to understand that if there is an economic downturn and people don't spend money shopping in their own country or state, they certainly will not come to shop in Hawaii.
Visitors don't come to Hawaii to shop. They come to relax and to spend a few easy days in the promised paradise. We can continue to pretend that this is still a paradise, we can continue to say "Alo-o-oha" while offering our visitors crowded and dirty beaches (and not many of them left, either), miles and miles of overdeveloped urban centers, snarled traffic and undriveable roads full of potholes and in a horrible state of disrepair.
Something needs to be done to stop this massacre of our beautiful coastlines and villages. We must create again the demand for Hawaii, make it desirable, a fun place to be, relaxing, unique and affordable as a destination. Then the airlines will come.
Franco Mancassola was founder and chairman of the Hawaii-based Discovery Airways (1987-92) and London-based Debonair Airways. He also was vice president of international operations for Continental Airlines (1976-83).