Tourism Tax Will Hurt More Than Swine Flu

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - May 06, 2009

The 2 percent increase of the Transient Accommodations Tax by the Democratic-controlled Legislature is one of the most reckless and inexplicable moves in recent history.

We all know tourism is our No. 1 industry. Our leaders also should know that tourism is a hyper-competitive industry. I recently compared the cost for a Los Angeles family considering a seven-day vacation to Hawaii or to Cancun, Mexico. The cost of air fare, similar hotel and car rental was three times as expensive in Hawaii. Despite the recent swine flu scare, we cannot afford to price ourselves out of the game.

Travelers are more sophisticated than ever before. How long are we going to be able to rest on our beaches and aloha spirit laurels as we see visitor arrivals and spending decrease month after month after month? It would be refreshing to see our government leaders support tourism instead of bleeding it dry at every opportunity.


The proposed dissolution of the Hawaii Tourism Authority and Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism demonstrates less a concern about performance than a desire for power and control. It must irk potential gubernatorial candidate Mayor Mufi Hannemann and declared candidate U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie that the HTA would not be under their control if either was elected governor.

Imagine, the most important industry not under the thumb of an incoming Democratic governor. Democrats are dismissing the candidacy of Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona to the point where they are dedicated to creating state departments and cabinet positions without the benefit of a pesky election. Although it is speculative, what other explanation could there be?

Yes, if either Hannemann or Abercrombie is elected, you will see the creation of the State Department of Tourism. The big question is, who would be the figurehead installed as director?

Speaking of the aforementioned swine flu or H1N1, the media coverage of this event is troubling. Blaring headlines, breaking news bulletins and ad nauseum statements from federal agencies leads one to believe the end is near.

What if you just awakened from a coma? If you were to believe all you see, read and hear, you would opt for returning to a comatose state.

Yes, there is a new strain of flu. Influenza kills thousands per year, every year. It is clear that we must employ fundamental hygiene procedures in battling this new virus. If one of us does contract swine flu, there is an antidote.

The bottom line? This is not 1918 when 50 million to 100 million people died worldwide. We have the technology to battle this outbreak, and the scare mongering perpetrated by media and stoked by government will accomplish one thing: hundreds of millions of dollars for the pharmaceutical companies.

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