Take pride in those million visitors

Tourism in Hawaii is enjoying a banner year. More people are coming to the Aloha State. They’re staying at resorts, eating at restaurants, buying gifts at shops and visiting the outdoors with the help of local companies.

They’re spending money. Lots of money.

Here on Kauai, visitor arrivals for June totaled 124,130, an 8.8 percent increase from June 2016. Visitor spending for June on Kauai totaled $172.6 million, a 10.5 percent increase.

For the first half of 2017, Kauai has welcomed 626,409 visitors, a 7.5 percent increase over the same time period last year. Those visitors spent $954.1 million, a 16.6 percent increase.

Statewide, it’s the same picture.

Visitors in the first half of 2017 spent a total of $8.4 billion in the Hawaiian Islands, an increase of 8.7 percent compared to the first half of 2016.

Total visitor arrivals rose 4.3 percent to 4.6 million compared to a year ago, boosted by growth in arrivals by air (plus 4 percent to 4.5 million) and arrivals by cruise ships (plus 24 percent to 70,083).

Even the airlines are doing their part to bring more people even with more direct flights to Hawaii.

That’s all good news, right, since this island’s economy depends heavily on tourism? Without our guests from the Mainland and other countries, well, Kauai’s economic outlook would not be nearly as rosy as it is right now. So we want and need folks to come to our lovely island, have a good time and, of course, spend money.

However, not everyone is thrilled that more and more people are coming to Kauai. They point out, correctly, that traffic is getting worse and there are really no plans, at least none that would do anything immediately or even within a reasonable time to improve traffic flower.

Many lament that organizations like the Hawaii Tourism Authority and Kauai Visitors Bureau continue to promote Kauai in order to attract visitors. Yes, they agree, more people spending money here helps the economy, but at the same time, more people add more cars to the roads and crowd areas like Kapaa and the North Shore to the point that many locals fear venturing out.

And they are not wrong to feel that way because it’s accurate. It would be nice if traffic in Kapaa didn’t back up for miles each day. It would be nice to find parking easily at Ke‘e Beach.

A few thoughts

First, don’t blame people for visiting Kauai or moving here. Who wouldn’t want to spend some time here? This island has some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. It is home to the Waimea Canyon, the Napali Coast, the Kalalau Trail and Hanalei Bay. It is home to towns like Hanalei, Kapaa, Lihue, Koloa, Kalaheo and Kekaha. It is home to surfing, snorkeling, swimming, kayaking and swimming. It has some of the friendliest, kindest people you will ever meet in your entire life. Yep, that aloha spirit is alive and well. We can’t blame others for wanting to share in this lifestyle and be part of this little piece of paradise.

Second, don’t blame HTA or KVB for doing their job, which is to attract people to come here and, ultimately, enjoy themselves and boost our economy by spending money. It might seem counterproductive to encourage too many to come here, and that it a fair concern that must be addressed, but it’s what keeps people employed and supporting their families.

Third, HTA and KVB could disband tomorrow, close their offices and stop all promotions. And you know what? It wouldn’t matter. People would still come here. Sorry, but people on the Mainland know about Hawaii. They know about Kauai. They know about the beaches and the sunsets. They know about the natural beauty and the aloha spirit. The word is out. It’s not a secret. Folks don’t need to see a flier or brochure or hear a radio spot to think, “Hey, let’s go to Kauai!” They’re going to continue to arrive in record numbers because Kauai is an amazing place and they want to see it, taste it, smell it, touch it. They want to be part of it. They want to live it. So they will come by plane and by boat and they would come by car and train if they could. We can’t stop them and wouldn’t try.

The people who live here could be upset so many visitors are coming to Kauai. Or they could be honored that others recognize Kauai for what it is, a stunning Hawaiian Island that offers a life that exists only here.

We should take pride in knowing that more than a million people come to Kauai each year and darn nearly everyone returns home better than when they came. They return richer in spirit. They return happier, more hopeful, more optimistic and more in love with life and more confident facing the days ahead.

Each person who lives on Kauai had something to do with that. They leave with memories that bring joy to their hearts.

It is true. Money can’t buy happiness. But it can get people to Kauai, where they can find it.

We can all agree that’s a good thing.

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