The wealthy are coming, and they need the Aloha Spirit

Get ready for more visitors to Kauai – but for completely different reasons.

First up is this: There’s going to be $6.7 million in upgrades at Honolulu International Airport that will help support Hawaii’s visitor industry.

The airport hosts about 20 million passengers each year.

The U.S. Department of Transportation grant will fund the replacement of 12 existing passenger loading bridges in the Main Overseas Terminal.

“Honolulu International Airport is Hawaii’s main connection to the mainland and the rest of the world,” Sen. Mazie K. Hirono said in a press release. “Today’s federal investment will help the airport make critical upgrades as the state continues to see growing numbers of international and domestic visitors. Since tourism is our state’s number one industry, anything we can do to promote travel to Hawaii is a step toward strengthening our economy and creating jobs.”

There’s another, more amusing reason people are expected flock to the Garden Isle later this year. According to a recent Luxury Institute Survey, rich folks — we’re talking very rich — plan to reduce their spending on material things, and instead, look for satisfaction through other means.

This survey included feedback from 500 or so “pentamillionaires,” defined as those with a net worth of $5 million or more. It seems like they have lots of cash to blow and are bored with buying stuff they don’t need.

So what do they want?

Thirty-three percent of America’s wealthiest shoppers plan to spend more on travel in the second half of this year, which should benefit hotels, airlines, cruise operators and tropical islands — like this one. The rich (20 percent, according to the survey) plan to eat out more and drink wine, too. Additional categories seeing significant upcoming spending interest are health and fitness (17 percent) and vacation real estate (17 percent).

You’ll be glad to know that only 6 percent of these pentamillionaires said they expect to spend more on handbags through the end of the year, while just 4 percent said they will be spending more on watches and jewelry, the survey found.

Which leads to the question, why the change of their hearts’ desires?

Why are these with many millions no longer satisfied with designer clothes, rare art work and the latest and greatest super phone?

Luxury Institute CEO Milton Pedraza offers an answer.

“Even among the wealthiest customers, luxury goods and services are considered less important in today’s economy,” Pedraza in a statement.

“People are less interested in watches and more interested in building lasting memories.”

Ah. And that is why all of this matters to Kauai. The search for these memories will undoubtedly bring some of them to Kauai, which is economically good for the island. But it benefits our affluent guests even more. Not because of the scenic beauty that awaits or those memories they’ll surely make. The Aloha Spirit, they may find, is exactly what they needed.

And it’s free.

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