The Maui News

MAUI, Hawaii (June 4) – Hawaii’s tourism industry has come a long way from the days when marketing relied on the "Hawaii Calls" radio show, Matson Navigation, Hollywood movies, United Air Lines and the likes of the Kodak Hula Show.

Today, fueled by a 7.25 percent hotel guest tax, the Hawaii Tourism Authority has an annual budget of US$70.7 million to keep the visitor industry healthy. The Hawaii Tourism Authority also supplies about half of the yearly budget of the Maui Visitors Bureau, which is also in line to get US$3.5 million in county funds during the next fiscal year.

Ever so slowly, the visitor industry has become interested in enriching the tourist experience in addition to getting them here in the first place. That means supporting Hawaiian culture, the only thing that differentiates Hawaii from the world’s other sun, sand and sea resort destinations.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority has also acknowledged the importance of the natural environment. For example, the agency funds two rangers at the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority garnered headlines last week when it announced it would be spending US$1.98 million on Hawaiian cultural programs – not exploitive shows or exhibits for tourists but programs aimed at furthering the Hawaiian cultural renaissance.

That and putting US$2 million into preserving natural resources are tiny steps in the right direction, too tiny when US$50 million is being put into marketing.

June 6, 2006

The Maui News: www.mauinews.com

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