Another dispatch from the broken record department: The most recent tourism-related figures for Hawaii are bleak. Contrasted against last year’s numbers, hotel occupancy fell nearly 3 percent statewide, as reported in The Pacific Business News. That average was actually buoyed by a 3 percent uptick on Oahu but dragged down by a 10.5 percent drop on Maui, which boasted (if that’s the right word) the largest decline of any island (Kauai fell 9.4 percent, the Big Island 4.4 percent). To venture an explanation: It’s not that Oahu suddenly became 13.5 percent (or whatever) more desirable than Maui; it’s that with airfares skyrocketing, people are taking the cheapest direct flights they can find (to Honolulu) and are staying put, rather than springing for that final, budget-busting inter-island ride.
Though hotels and other hospitality-centric outfits feel it first, the visitor slowdown isn’t just hitting the private sector. Addressing the issue in front of the Hawaii Economic Association on Oahu, Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares said decreased revenue from hotel guest taxes and other tourism-linked sources will force governmental belt tightening. PBN reports that Tavares has lobbied the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the Visitors and Convention Bureau to more aggressively advertise the Valley Isle in Canada and Japan, while at the same time pushing Japanese airlines to implement direct routes from Tokyo to Maui.
The arrow’s pointing up for folks on Molokai’s west side who’ll enjoy uninterrupted water service for the foreseeable future. Molokai Properties announced that rate increases authorized by the Public Utilities Commission will be enough to keep their operation afloat, at least for the time being, avoiding a potentially messy standoff involving the county and other entities that threatened to leave some residents on Maui’s neighbor island high and dry. On the other hand, affected Molokaians might see bigger bills during an already dicey economic period as more of an arrow pointing down kind of thing. It’s the classic glass half empty vs. glass half full quandary—but here the real key is just that there’s some water in the glass.
A handful of businesses located on state-owned property near the Kahului Airport got eviction notices this week, as reported in The Maui News. The spot is to be converted into an expanse of rental car operations, which will require an environmental assessment—meaning the area has to be vacated by year’s end. The state is within its rights to make the move, but many of the businesses in question—some of them longtime local establishments—are already struggling; giving them six months to pack up and get out will in all likelihood have the same effect as bulldozing them tomorrow. MTW