State wants tourists back


POSTED: Friday, April 24, 2009

While most Hawaii residents said they have not been affected by the tourism downturn, a whopping 85 percent agreed that the state should do everything it can to bring visitors back to the state. More than 75 percent agreed the state should spend more to market Hawaii to compete with other destinations.

These latest findings were revealed yesterday morning at a Business Banking Council panel featuring Mike McCartney, chief executive of the Hawaii Tourism Authority; Jim Tollefson, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii; and Carol Pregill, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii.

The study was commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii.

“;When times are good, people take tourism for granted,”; said Tollefson. “;When times are tough, they realize how important it is. It all comes back to jobs.”;

Roughly one in five—or 19 percent—of 500 Hawaii residents surveyed by QMark considered themselves to be involved in the tourism industry. Neighbor isle respondents (27 percent) are more likely to be connected to tourism than their Oahu counterparts (15 percent).

Still, more than a third of respondents said they have been affected, said Tollefson, representing a significant number of jobs. Tollefson cited a First Hawaiian Bank study that found 74 percent of jobs here are tied to tourism.

Tourism has an impact on everyone, he said—from a Waikiki hotel owner to a dentist and auto dealer. Businesses, both large and small, are affected across the board.

McCartney, the newly appointed CEO of HTA, said raising hotel room taxes now would be counterproductive, given that Hawaii is in a price war with other destinations around the world.

At the same time, he said he knows the state Legislature is faced with some tough decisions in order to balance the budget.

HTA will double its marketing efforts, he said, to bring visitors back to the state, even if it means going back to the “;old-fashioned way”; of pounding the pavement in mainland U.S. cities.

Tollefson and Pregill were also opposed to higher hotel room taxes at this time, saying it would hinder rather than help efforts to bring more visitors to Hawaii.

Even though the public appears to support an economic boost for tourism, a majority—94 percent—agreed the state should develop alternative industries as well as focus on projects to stimulate the economy, regardless of whether it's tourism-related.

Pregill said the retail industry is experiencing its worst slump since Sept. 11, 2001, and that many are not expecting it to get better in the near future.

Most retailers surveyed by Pregill said sales are down from 10 to 25 percent, and that they expect 2010 to be flat, which they consider positive news.

“;Flat is the new up,”; she said.

QMark interviewed 502 residents on the phone between March 10 and 15. The margin of error is 4.38 percentage points, with a 95 percent confidence level.




Hawaii tourism downturn's impacts


        » Family not affected: 66%

» Less income/work hours: 11%


» Spending less in general: 7%


» Worried about job: 7%


» Have lost job: 5%


» Affected personal spending habits: 3%


Public's position on Hawaii tourism


        » 94% agree: The state should do everything it can to develop alternate industries so Hawaii is not so dependent on tourism.

» 85% agree: The state should do everything it can to bring tourists to Hawaii in this down time.


» 76% agree: Because competitive destinations are increasing their spending, our state should spend more on marketing Hawaii to bring tourists here.


Source: QMark Research Tourism Study