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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, November 29, 2004

Let's be sure we're ready for tourism rush

Tourism is booming again, but that doesn't mean the hard work is over. Far from it.

The numbers look good as 2004 appears likely to be as good as or better than 2000, the record year to date, with just short of 7 million visitors.

Hawai'i tourism marketers had their work cut out for them as they've had to overcome 9/11 and SARS, among other setbacks. But the U.S. economy has strengthened, as has that of Japan, and Hawai'i's image as an exotic yet safe destination has boosted the state's tourism growth.

There are certainly challenges to keeping up the momentum, including the threat of terrorism, increased competition and marketing spending among destinations, the price of oil, and serious weakness in the airline industry.

What's vital now that the tourists are back is to make sure they go home with a good impression. It's more than a little trite to ask Islanders to make sure their aloha spirit is on display for visitors.

But it's not too much to ask that state, county and federal governments ensure that the needed infrastructure is in place to ensure smooth sailing for tourism. This means: Our airports must be in tip-top shape, and enough customs inspectors, baggage handlers and ground personnel must be on hand to prevent long waits; our roadsides must be clean; we have to get ahead of our pothole problem, and our parks and beaches must be presentable.

With nearly 7 million visitors, the tax revenues will come. There's no excuse for falling down on any of these vital jobs.