Friday, April 29, 2011

Oh, Canada – Thank You for Visiting Hawaii!

We can thank our friends from the snowy North – or maybe the weather itself – for a 35-percent increase in Canadian visitors and a 50-percent increase in their spending in March compared to the same month a year ago.

Or maybe it's the general improvement in the economy, another year into the recovery from the depths of the recession. Overall, tourism arrivals in Hawaii increased 4.2 percent and defied many predictions of a precipitous fall-off due to the tsunami tragedy in Japan, which is an exceptionally important market.

Visitors from that nation did decline by nearly 18 percent, and spending was down 4 percent. Hawaii has shown its Aloha for Japan and its citizens by sending millions of dollars in relief raised in numerous concerts and other venues since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Golden Week, the annual high point of Japanese tourism, is in full swing, and according to Barry Wallace, executive vice president for hospitality services for Outrigger Enterprises Group, it’s “a reasonably strong week. It’s the best week that we’ve had since 3/11 for Japan business. And summer looks to be a very strong time with lots and lots of interest.”

The health of Hawaii’s tourism industry is exceptionally relevant to Honolulu rail’s finance plan, since the local share of the $5.3 billion construction cost is being covered by a 0.5-percent increase in the general excise tax paid on all transactions on Oahu, including those by visitors. The increase began in January 2007 and will continue through 2022.

Finally, transit-oriented development also will be exceptionally important to Honolulu rail’s success. TOD planning has begun, but much remains to be put in place. However, some options have no chance of being adopted as part of the system, like the one shown below. Watch the video and judge for yourself.

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