Airlift Investment Just 1 Key Factor in Growing Hawaii's Future

Article excerpt

Look at a report on tourism and the chances are that you'll see plenty mention of airlift, hotel occupancy, visitor spending and average daily hotel rate. Lately, these measures of our tourism health have been improving, which is welcome news for the industry and the state's economic well-being. None of these measures, however, give an indication of how competitive Hawaii is going to be as a visitor destination in the years ahead.

Whether tourism will continue to support the standard of living we enjoy in Hawaii today or whether we will see that standard of living erode will depend entirely on our state's long-term competitiveness in this field, since tourism, like so many aspects of modern life, is becoming increasingly competitive. We can't just stand still and keep what we have: We will either move ahead or we will fall behind.

So while we are proud of Hawaiian Air's contribution to the recent spate of encouraging headlines about Hawaii tourism - five new destinations in 18 months, 1,000 new, local, high-paying jobs and the first arrivals of $8 billion in new long-range aircraft (a private investment that is as important to the economic infrastructure of the state as rail transit or airport modernization) - our focus is set firmly on the future.

With so much invested in the long-term health of tourism in Hawaii, these are the questions we are asking ourselves:

-- Where will tomorrow's visitors come from and what kind of experience will they want when they get here? Asia may be an obvious answer to the first part of the question, but the answer to the second part is equally important. If every aspect of the visitor experience doesn't match up to the demands of tomorrow's visitor, all the airlift in the world won't matter.

-- With competition from other destinations on the rise, are we looking far enough ahead? Many of the emerging global destinations have a clear-sighted community-wide focus on competitiveness and a long-term plan to achieve it. …