John Monahan

Steve Murray
Wednesday - April 20, 2005
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The job is simple. Get more people to stay longer and spend more money while on vacation in Hawaii. OK, maybe it’s not that easy, but for Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau chief John Monahan, the job fits.

“I love it. It’s nice in my advanced years to make a fresh change,” he says. “Hopefully I have been able to bring a fresh perspective to the job.”

And change is exactly what Monahan says is needed for Hawaii to maintain its share of the tourism market. “We have to continue to work on our product,” he says. “We must make sure our visitors’ experience remains good. The infrastructure has to be maintained to make sure visitors and locals can get around and that top-grade facilities are there wherever they go.”

Monahan pointed to the new Beach Walk plan as an important step toward that goal. “It’s very important,” he says. “Waikiki will really need to be upgraded. I think the hotel guys will tell you you have to refresh every five years. It’s important to the overall economy of the state.”

Back in April 2001 when Monahan was on the MidWeek cover, he was leading one of Hawaii’s oldest companies, Liberty House. Though he says not much has changed over the years, he has managed to see one child married, one recently graduate college and another head off to Lima, Peru, for a church mission.

“It’s just me and the wife now with the empty nest,” jokes the avid golfer.

One of the biggest concerns surrounding the visitor industry is just how many people we can welcome ashore while still providing a quality experience. Monahan says research is being done to answer that question. Last year, nearly 7 million people visited the islands with hotel occupancy rates at 80 percent on Oahu. Whatever the ceiling, the balancing act is an important one. Not enough visitors means a poor economy, and too many can put a stress on the natural beauty that attracts so many, especially the ecotourists, who Monahan says are an important consideration for the state.

At 54 years old, Monahan is not looking to slow down anytime soon.

“I can’t imagine not working. As long as I feel motivated by the challenge, I’ll continue working.” No question the challenges won’t get any smaller. Which means neither will his handicap.

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