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The Future of Hawai'i Tourism

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Hawai'i's visitor industry has given us the opportunity to share the aloha spirit with the world. It is a key element in bringing guests back to our islands year after year. Aunty Pilahi Pākī embodied this spirit and famously said, "...the world will turn to Hawai'i in search for world peace because Hawai'i has the key...and that key is aloha."

Every day an average of 200,000 visitors from around the globe come to the Hawaiian Islands to experience the vast natural beauty, rich and diverse culture, and the aloha spirit of our people. Each and every one of us make Hawai'i a unique place to live and visit, and it is important that we recognize how we all contribute to making Hawai'i's visitor industry a success. The benefits that tourism brings to Hawai'i touches all of us.

Tourism is the largest generator of jobs among the major economic sectors, the largest source of private capital for our state, and has helped lead the state to economic recovery.

Last year was a record-breaking year in visitor arrivals and spending for Hawai'i's tourism economy, and the momentum has continued into 2013 on pace to surpass 2012. Every day, an average $41 million is spent in Hawai'i: $20 million on O'ahu, $11 million in Maui County, $5 million on Hawai'i Island and $4 million on Kaua'i. This money is generated by visitor spending on everything from meals and transportation to souvenirs and experiences, supporting hundreds of businesses across the state and contributing $911 million in state tax revenue year to date.

More than 167,000 jobs are supported by tourism -- from housekeeping to management, accounting to food and beverage -- and with tremendous potential for growth. They work 24/7, seven days a week, 365 days a year, sharing the aloha spirit with our visitors each and every day.

Beyond the numbers, tourism provides for our community and the benefits reach far beyond our visitor industry. Festivals and events, like the Honolulu Festival and Pro Bowl, attract people from around the world to experience the Hawaiian Islands, while also providing our residents the opportunity to participate in unique, world-class events.

Tourism's success also provides other opportunities in Hawai'i. The numerous hotel development and revitalization projects continue to stimulate construction and sustain more jobs for locals. And as more visitors look for authentic Hawai'i experiences, many are traveling outside of Waikīkī, which benefits smaller businesses across the state. The visitor industry also helps to attract world-class shops and restaurants that we, as residents, are also able to enjoy.

As an island state, airlift is our lifeline and a key factor that allows our state to flourish. It provides our residents the opportunity to travel around the world for leisure, or to conduct business, commerce and import goods. Our state services 954 flights per week, through 20 carriers that reach 53 cities across the globe -- unusual for a destination of our size -- and allows residents to travel the world. This is our competitive advantage.

For Hawai'i's tourism economy to maintain momentum and provide for our state, we all must work together to ensure its continued success. As spending and arrivals continue in an upward swing, hotel occupancy and room rates are reaching all-time highs. While this is benefiting our economy, we must be cognizant of the rising cost of fuel, the strengthening dollar and the fragile world economy. It is our mutual responsibility to maintain balance in order to ensure continued success, as times may be challenging ahead.

We must collectively support long-term transformation and growth of our destination -- from refreshing Waikīkī and Hilo and expanding room inventory in Ko Olina and the neighbor islands, to opening Kona as a second international port of entry. We will continue to strengthen our core markets and focus on growing and supporting our developing global markets in order to maintain our share.

We appreciate each and every one of our residents who make Hawai'i a premier destination, a place we call home. It is our people, place and culture that make our Hawaiian Islands a one-of-a-kind place to live and visit.