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Lingle addresses travel industry leaders

MEDIA RELEASE

Speaking at a critical time for Hawaii’s visitor industry and economy, Gov. Linda Lingle delivered keynote remarks Wednesday, May 13 at the 12th annual Travel Weekly Hawaii Leadership Forum. The governor highlighted the strengths of Hawaii’s visitor industry, as well as opportunities for growth in this global economic climate.

“Today, we are dealing with the worst global financial crisis since Hawaii’s statehood, and it is your industry that will lead us out again,” Lingle said. “It is imperative that we move now to enact proactive marketing strategies. We must increase investment in the tourism industry and continue supporting each other and working together. There is no time to lose.”

The governor noted a recent industry report by economist Dr. Leroy Laney, that highlighted why tourism is a beneficial industry to have as a mainstay of Hawaii’s economy. In addition to encouraging the preservation of local culture, it also creates jobs that are not subject to outsourcing, supports retailers, attractions and restaurants, and is a major source of revenue for the state.

Laney also emphasized the need for measures that will boost the visitor industry so that the rest of Hawaii’s economy can recover.

With Hawaii’s visitor industry reeling from decreased hotel occupancy rates, as well as fewer visitor arrivals and a drop in visitor expenditures, Lingle questioned legislators’ logic in passing, and later overriding her veto of the increase in the Transient Accommodations Tax, which raises the hotel room tax in Hawaii by 28 percent.

“An increase in the hotel room tax is counter productive to our efforts to market Hawaii as an affordable, value destination; but we still have positives on our side, including high visitor satisfaction,” Lingle said.

She also noted that, similar to hotels that have spearheaded major renovations, her Administration is investing in the industry by modernizing Hawaii’s airports, harbors and highways, as well as repairing and maintaining state parks, small boat harbors and trails frequented by visitors.

“We need these projects to create jobs, enhance residents’ quality of life and to make visitors feel welcome the second they step off an airplane or cruise ship,” Lingle said. “We don’t want them to hit potholes on their way to hotels, sit in traffic, or be disappointed in their experience at our airports. The worst mistake we can make is to put these projects on hold.”

In closing, Lingle said at this critical point in our economy, now is not the time to operate in a “business as usual” fashion.

“The visitor industry has always been a business leader in our state, representing some of our state’s largest employers and sharing the best qualities of our islands with the world, day-in and day-out. We must continue to put innovative and shared solutions into action.”

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