The Maui News

WAILUKU, Maui (Jan. 2) – The beginning of a new year is a time for resolutions, usually made by individuals who have identified some failing in the past year and want to correct it. Government officials who can make profound differences in the lives we lead might consider doing the same – identify failings and vow to correct them.

The economy, represented by cash flow, housing, jobs, better lives for the next generation, levels of comfort and security, is one area in which government officials can encourage and facilitate or they can take narrow views that inhibit and discourage.

In the islands, economy is synonymous with tourism. The visitor industry and the real estate sales and construction it helps stimulate has been the principal economic engine for decades. For Maui, the numbers for 2004 were good with more than 2 million visitors, about where it has been – with some slumps due to world events – since 1989. While the overall visitor numbers remained relatively constant, the growth in Maui’s economy has come from real estate sales, which show little signs of slacking off.

Every producer of a product wanting to increase profits faces a choice between increasing volume of sales or increasing the profit from the same number of sales. The numbers and a state-sponsored study of "sustainable tourism" indicate the need to look at enriching the visitor experience in order to enrich the state, county and those who live, work and dream in the islands.

Maui has an enviable reputation as a premier getaway. The reputation has been fostered by years of effective marketing but it rests on what the island has to offer in the way of natural, unsullied beauty. Improving and protecting Maui’s natural gifts would be one way to enrich the visitor experience and visitor industry profits, not to mention improving the quality of life for all of the island’s residents.

Just as the marketing required an investment of tax dollars, improving and protecting Maui’s natural environment will require an investment. More importantly, it requires government leaders on the state and county level to make a priority of improving and protecting parks, publicly held lands, beaches and the ocean. Responsible stewardship and economic reality demand it.

January 3, 2005

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