Fewer tourists flew to Hawaii last year to share in what the island promoters call the "aloha" spirit. It has shaken the islands economically, rousing fresh interest in proposals for attracting new businesses here.
"We need other activities to ensure a broader economic base," Gov. George R. Ariyoshi said in an interview.
What hit tourism was higher air fares. From July 1979 to January 1981, the typical weekday round-trip coach fare from San Francisco to Honolulu increased from $282 to $530 as the cost of jet fuel rose.
Westbound visitors, primarily from the United States mainland and Canada, decreased 3.1 percent during the year. Eastbound visitors from the Orient and Pacific showed an 8.3 percent increase. But this was not sufficient to offset the decline in the much larger westbound traffic, and thus tourist visitors as a whole dropped 0.8 percent. the adverse trend was felt most severely in the "neighbor islands" rather than on Oahu, where this capital city is situated.
Moreover, many tourist industry representatives believe that the visitors to these islands were conservative in their spending, hit by inflation and tight budgets.
The tourist industry had been counting on continued rapid growth in tourism, such as had occurred in much of the 1970s. Growth in the visitors' arrival rate slowed in the 1973-75 recession. But it rebounded to 13.5 percent in 1976 and remained in the 6.6-to-7.9-percent range in the years 1977-79. The number of new hotel rooms increased about 4,400 from June 1979 to June 1980. The result was a decline in the statewide occupany rate from 73.5 percent in 1979 to 67.4 percent last year.