9.1 million visitors to Hawaii – is there a limit?


“Local Residents are leaving, but you enjoy your stay.” These are signs today meant for tourists on a traffic packed Kamehameha Hwy on the Northshore of Oahu to see when they were driving by the beach looking for turtles.

9.1 million visitors to the State of Hawaii is record-breaking. The roads are in bad shape, potholes the more you get away from Waikiki are standard.

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A one bedroom house or apartment rents for $ 3,500.00 a month on an average for a one year lease. Most people have housemates. A bank salary won’t buy you your own place, many working in the hospitality industry have 2 jobs or more making just a little more than minimum wage.

Unemployment is not a big issue, but high paying jobs are hard to find. Hawaii Tourism CEO George Szigeisaid in a recent Star Advertiser interview: “Tourism supports economies everywhere.” He is correct, tourism is everyone’s business, but here is the problem:

The profits don’t stay in the Aloha State. Locals are getting more and more fed up with the worst traffic situation in the nation, with expensive grocery stores and the price of paradise everywhere – tourism prices these are, and locals have to pay them.

Profits are sent to Marriotts in Washington DC, to the Hyatt’s in Chicago or the many designer shop owners everywhere , almost none of the money made through tourism stays in Hawaii.

Hawaii, a US State is not authorized to set a limit on the number of people who can travel there, and cannot levy an entry tax. They could raise taxes on tourism, making it more expensive to visit, spend less on tourism promotion, or tighten land use and zoning laws. Tourism export in Hawaii added up to $15.6 billion Dollars, expected $16.2 billion by the end of this year. Only 40% of the population think tourism is good for them, but turning it off is not an option.

Tourism is fragile and unpredictable. It’s depending on infrastructure, competition, weather and security issues. It depends on political climate, economic situations- and saying no to tourists is not a good option – the competition is watching.

Tourism Dollars have to be managed effectively. Enough money has to remain in the State to take care of homeless people in Waikiki and elsewhere. Tourists will remember .

Money has to be spend to provide clean toilet facilities on Hawaii’s beaches and safe parking lots. This is also everyone’s business, and specifically the business of the State and private stakeholders making the big Dollars.

Happy tourists and a flawless image of this wonderful Aloha Spirit has to be kept in top shape.

Yes, there is a limit on tourism, but let’s be smart about it.

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1979), beginning as a travel agent up through today as a publisher of eTurboNews (eTN), one of the world’s most influential and most-read travel and tourism publications. He is also Chairman of ICTP. His experiences include working and collaborating with various national tourism offices and non-governmental organizations, as well as private and non-profit organizations, and in planning, implementing, and quality control of a range of travel and tourism-related activities and programs, including tourism policies and legislation. His major strengths include a vast knowledge of travel and tourism from the point of view of a successful private enterprise owner, superb networking skills, strong leadership, excellent communication skills, strong team player, attention to detail, dutiful respect for compliance in all regulated environments, and advisory skills in both political and non-political arenas with respect to tourism programs, policies, and legislation. He has a thorough knowledge of current industry practices and trends and is a computer and Internet junkie.