Catching Up with John Monahan of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau

Throughout the Great Recession (or the GFC—Global Financial Crisis, whichever you’d rather call it), Hawaii has been in a unique situation. As part of the United States, it has the appeal of a domestic destination, but is far enough away from the mainland to be exotic and distant. With hotels and airlines alike offering fantastic deals, the Islands have remained afloat (pardon the pun) in the face of the downturn—but the crisis isn’t over yet.

We checked in with John Monahan, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau’s president and CEO, to see how the state’s tourism scene was doing.

From an arrival standpoint, he said, the numbers through April statewide were “in recovery mode. May and June have continued to be at least that good.” Spending, he added, is up 4 percent per person, per day. “We’ve bounced off the bottom,” he said. “We’re no longer declining, but we’re below where we were in our record days.” He described 2008 and 2009 as “tough” years for the state.

“Also,” he added, “the fact that the demand for the islands has been growing is evidenced by the…increase in airlift. The increase in arrivals and expenditure are in values and promotion—not just cost, but what we can exhibit is great value.” One unexpected bonus, he added, is that when times weren’t so tough, Hawaii spent millions on renovations to its infrastructure. “Now, in a declining economy, cost is less than its been, so you’re seeing a product that’s been improved and prices that have come down. The combination creates great value.”

Hawaii has also been boosted by a boom in its film industry, with ∫ taking advantage of the great variety of landscapes all within a short distance. Lost is gone, alas, but iconic TV series Hawaii 5-0 is coming back (with Daniel Dae Kim of Lost fame in a major role). Adam Sandler is filming a new movie there (“He tends to do a Hawaii movie every little while,” Monahan quipped referring to 2004’s 50 First Dates, also set in Hawaii), and George Clooney is currently filming The Descendents, based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, which follows the scions of the American missionaries who came to the islands in the early nineteenth century.



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