Newly elected Governor Josh Green delivered his first State of the State Address this week to a session of Hawaii’s Legislature. In the address, we were anxious to hear about his plans for Hawaii travel. He spoke primarily, however, about other issues that are critical to the state, including a severe lack of affordable housing, help for low-income families, and homelessness.
What Gov. Green did and didn’t say about Hawaii travel.
The governor was concerningly short on words regarding Hawaii’s only viable economic engine, the Hawaii travel industry. He said these two brief things regarding his vision for Hawaii tourism. The first was “We will begin to move our economy beyond tourism. The second was, “In the coming years, we will reposition our economy to pursue global opportunities — retooling tourism.
Maybe more interesting than what Green did say was what he didn’t mention. That is regarding his planned $50 visitor arrival fee. He said as recently as last week that he would find a feasible method to implement that. But any concrete information about how and when that could happen hasn’t been discussed.
Does the governor value the Hawaii visitor industry? Perhaps not.
Something else we found interesting. Green never said that he or the state appreciated Hawaii travel and its visitors and what that has done to keep the state coffers afloat. Again, this is to a large degree the only money-making venture the state has, and when nothing is said, it makes it appear to be taken for granted. No matter how much Hawaii may want to evolve tourism, this can come across as insular, callous, and misguided by not saying something more. To best move Hawaii tourism forward, bringing the tourism industry stakeholders and visitors along with us on the journey seems the best way.
Hawaii has failed completely in any economic diversification.
UHERO (the state of Hawaii’s research arm at the University of Hawaii) previously said that Hawaii’s exclusive focus on tourism “Exposes the economy of Hawaii to external shocks that trigger collapses in tourist numbers. Furthermore, Hawaii’s economic growth has diminished for decades as the dominance of tourism has not generated productivity growth.”
And while Hawaii policymakers, including newly elected Governor Josh Green, continue to talk diversification, nothing is happened or is on the horizon of substance. As UHERO said, this isn’t entirely different than other similar, small, and isolated economies. The state’s research arm, UHERO, proposes that Hawaii target new industries that use related know-how or Hawaii-specific resources.
Even more concerning was when UHERO said, “That diversification policy will fund special interests rather than genuine economic development initiatives.”UHEROwp2205