The Maui News

WAILUKU, Maui (Aug. 1) - Years of effective marketing, not to mention word of mouth and the vacation experience offered by the island, have put Maui in the position of often leading the state in terms of per-capita visitors, hotel occupancy, room rates and length of stay. That success can't be taken for granted. The visitor industry isn't what it used to be and the visitor industry tomorrow is likely to be different - in some as yet unknown way - than it is today.

The latest report from the consulting firm conducting a "Sustainable Tourism Study" for the state notes growth in the visitor industry will run into a lack of hotel inventory. Or, as Maui Visitors Bureau Executive Director Terry Vencl said last week, "We don't have the space to have double-digit growth."

The tourism report said "the reluctance to construct new hotels may have the unintended consequence of channeling visitors into informal accommodations" that are "very difficult to monitor and control." That may be so, but on Maui, the growth of bed-and-breakfast establishments and vacation rentals has been booming for years, largely due to inexpensive, worldwide Internet advertising that appeals to visitors who want off-beat, nonresort vacations.

A factor in the decline of hotel construction plans is the development of the time share, which gives the developer an immediate cash return and eliminates the need for hotel-like support facilities and the manpower needed for a full-service hotel. Eliminating that manpower means cutting into Maui's inventory of jobs, as do the often illegal alternative accommodations, which also affect the resident rental housing inventory.

There are only two ways for a business to increase its revenue. It can sell more product or it can charge more for the same amount of product. In the case of Maui's tourist-based economy, that means building the rooms and infrastructure needed for more visitors or improving existing facilities and the overall vacation experience so more can be charged for the same number of visitors. Either approach requires comprehensive planning that needs to be done now if Maui is to continue leading the way.

August 2, 2004

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