Allan Parachini’s excellent opinion piece (“We need to protect Kauai’s brand before it’s too late” TGI, Sunday July 8) was a reasonable restatement of what some have been talking about for quite a while. I am hopeful that Mr. Parachini’s opinion piece will broaden the discussion.
Nobody questions that the Kauai’s economy is dependent upon tourism. Let’s be real and face it: Kauai works for tourism. But the time has come when tourism must work for Kauai. Unsaid by Mr. Parachini but consistent with his position is that the unmitigated growth of Kauai tourism is akin to killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
I support Mr. Parachini’s thesis and I want to pursue but mildly redirect his discussion.
While discussing the need for Kauai to protect its market position and brand, Mr. Parachini used the analogy of an excellent wine that achieves market success and, to grow, the winery makes and sells more wine. Eventually, problems with the market strategy diminish the demand for the wine.
The redirection that I wish to propose is the obvious, but undiscussed, marketing alternative to achieve revenue growth not by selling more wine but by raising the price of the wine and selling the same number — or even fewer — bottles. If the demand for the wine is large enough, the price increase will be absorbed by those wanting to buy the wine and revenue growth can occur even if there is a decline in the number of bottles sold. Selling nine bottles of wine at $12 per bottle generates more revenue than selling 10 bottles of wine at $10. To wit, it is possible to reduce sales and still maintain, or even grow, revenues.
I acknowledge that to apply my analogy to Kauai’s complicated economy is an oversimplification. But oversimplification does not always mean “wrong.”
The recently released Hawaii Tourism Authority travel data for May shows that the demand for a Kauai vacation remains strong with a 2.9 percent increase in hotel occupancy and a 10.2 percent increase in ADR. I think that even more on point is that Hawaii Island hotels, even with its many visitor issues, posted a 5.2 percent increase in RevPAR and a 5.5 percent increase in ADR despite a .2 percent decrease in occupancy. Isn’t this nearly everybody’s goal: revenue stability with a lower number of visitors that deliver less impact on our Island?
These figures document that it is possible to have economic growth with fewer visitors. And as much as Kauai depends upon our visitors for its island economy, the continued growth in visitor numbers is destroying the very reason why people want to visit. In short, Kauai’s success as a tourist destination is killing Kauai. There must be a balance.
Managed growth is not a complete answer, but it is a step in the right direction. On Kauai, managing growth means managing tourism. Of the current candidates for mayor and county council, the only written statement about how to get a handle on tourism growth has come from JoAnn Yukimura and it is available on her website. I am hopeful that the other candidates in this year’s mayoral and council elections will also tell us how they plan to handle the issue that is fundamentally involved in our critical island concerns, including traffic and housing.
Thank you, Mr. Parachini for your excellent piece. I hope that Kauai reads and thinks about what you shared. I hope that they turn out to vote for what they collectively desire. Will it be unfettered growth or managed growth? More of the same or a step to save the goose that lays the golden eggs?
Tom Blankley is a resident of Princeville.