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Hawai‘i’s Tourism Challenges for 2018

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Tourism remains one of Hawai‘i’s economic pillars. And while 2017 was another year of records, the industry faces some new challenges this year. PBN editor in chief A. Kam Napier has more from a roundtable of tourism industry executives.

At a glance, here’s the report card for Hawaii tourism in 2017:

  • Visitor spending up 6.2 percent to nearly $17 billion.
  • State tax revenue, also up 6.2 percent, to nearly $2 billion.
  • Arrivals up 5 percent, to 9.4 million visitors.
  • All this supported a record 204,000 jobs statewide.

All four of these measures set new records last year.
With numbers like those, the industry is confronted with two challenges: one, meeting an ever wider range of visitor interests and expectations, and, two, preserving the Islands themselves from wear and tear.

On the experiential side, it’s well know that millennials love bargains and backpacking, but there’s also a growing market of quite wealthy twenty-somethings. To meet their expectations, hotels are having to remodel, usually with all natural materials, for design-savvy guests accustomed to art direction. Craig Takahata, principal with architecture firm G70, says it costs hotels more to invest in design, but they’re finding it worth the investment to set their brands apart.

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Credit dronepicr / Wikimedia Commons
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Wikimedia Commons
Makena Beach

On the environmental front, tourism businesses are making the time to do more than just clean up after themselves.

For example, Maui catamaran company Trilogy Excursions has, for the past eight years, teamed up with the Surfrider Foundation for monthly beach clean-ups. These have grown to include other businesses and community members who also donate fund to environmental causes.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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