Travel Tech in Hawaii Star Advertiser
Travel Tech on August 13, 2018
Isles’ economy, jobs at risk if lodging restricted
Hawaii Star Advertiser by Erik Kloninger and Matthew Kiessling
Posted August 12, 2018
Hawaii is one of the most well-known and popular travel destinations in the world, and the tourism and hospitality industry is the main driver of the state’s economy. Airlines continue to add seats to Hawaii and hotels are operating at near capacity. With more people and fewer lodging options, alternative accommodations have become an increasingly important component of a successful local economy.
As city officials look to update the nearly 30-year-old laws governing alternative accommodations, it is crucial to understand that if severe restrictions are enacted, they could have a negative impact on Oahu’s economy.
Recently, we released an economic impact report to analyze Oahu’s alternative accommodations industry — rental homes, bed and breakfasts, shared and private rooms within a home, and vacation rental condominiums. The report found that together these accommodations types contributed over $1.1 billion in direct visitor spending on Oahu in 2017 alone.
The ripple effects stemming from these alternative accommodations resulted in $2 billion in economic impact for the island, and $564 million in total household income generated, and 12,000 local jobs supported.
When direct spending figures are further broken down, it becomes clear just how important the vacation rental industry is for residents and local businesses, particularly outside of traditional resort districts. About $463 million of direct spending is used for lodging in alternative accommodations. Another $237 million is spent on dining, $168 million on shopping, $119
million on transportation, and $98 million on entertainment. That’s money going straight into the pockets of local residents and small business owners who rely on the extra revenue brought in by visitors year after year.
These are no small numbers, and public policies should reflect the demand for a wide variety of accommodations in the dynamic and evolving tourism economy. Imposing harsh restrictions or completely eliminating vacation rentals, particularly outside of traditional resort areas, would cause serious economic harm.
Looking to limit any one type of accommodation presents a wide variety of consequences: lost income for residents, less activity for small businesses, decreased tax revenue for local government, and fewer options for traveling families who otherwise may not be able to visit Hawaii’s beautiful shores.
In this sense, our report highlights the need to protect Hawaii’s accommodation options, and the travel and tourism industry that has thrived for decades. Alternative accommodation homeowners and operators value their communities, and the ability to provide an authentic experience for visitors. Along with local business owners, they recognize the importance of platforms like VRBO, Airbnb and HomeAway in making income opportunities possible.
Accordingly, local leaders will need to consider the costs to the local economy as they continue to devise a policy framework for alternative accommodations. A balanced and fair approach should allow communities, residents and businesses to continue reaping the benefits of these options. If they fail to do so, the costs to the economy and local families could threaten the survival of Hawaii’s vibrant tourism industry.