Hawaiian hoteliers do it right

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Congress and the rest of the U.S. travel industry could learn a lesson from the Hawaiian tourism community. Late last week, the Hawaiian Tourism Authority voted to spend an additional $12 million by next spring to help draw visitors back to the islands. The funds are on top of $54 million already earmarked for tourism marketing this year.

This quasi-government agency created in 1988 to oversee spending of hotel tax monies saw a problem—a steep drop-off in visitor arrivals during the first half of the year—and almost immediately sought a solution. Meanwhile, the rest of the U.S. travel industry continues to wallow in its efforts to get Congress and various Administrations to get behind a plan—any plan—to get the federal government to promote travel to the U.S.

The latest effort, the Travel Promotion Act, is wending its way through both branches of Congress and may be the best shot the industry has to finally get some respect in Washington. The cleverly crafted legislation calls for international visitors to pay $10 a head to enter the country, with the funds going to both promote tourism to the U.S. and to communicate U.S. security and entry policies to potential visitors. The plan will cost taxpayers nothing and also bolster the country's concerns over border security.

If you have a chance, pick up the phone or dash off an e-mail message to your senator or representative, telling him and/or her why this legislation makes so much sense.

Hawaii didn't become a tourism powerhouse just because it has great beaches, fabulous hotels and the vaunted aloha spirit. It takes a lot of hard work, marketing muscle and, most of all, tons of money. Listen up, Congress.

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