A mild climate and stunning natural setting make tourism the biggest and most important contributor to the Hawaiian economy. From its historical roots as a producer of sugar cane and pineapples, Hawaii has developed a tourism industry that makes it one of the world’s prime destinations for holidaymakers and brings in revenues that are second only to the amount the United States federal government spends on the six main islands every year. An estimated eight million tourists visit annually, bringing in close to $12 billion in revenue and creating an industry that employs more people than any other sector.
Hawaii is also fortunate in being of strategic importance to the US military thanks to its location in the centre of the Pacific Ocean. There is a big military presence of more than 75,000 personnel which brings in around $12 billion of the £20 billion spent annually on the islands by central government. A large amount of this finds its way to the islands’ service industries which account for the lion’s share of the gross domestic product. These include health care establishments, engineering companies, schools, legal practices and accounting firms as well as all the businesses that support the tourism industry. One interesting departure has been into the world of films with Hawaii being used as a location for over 60 major productions in recent years.
Sugar and swordfish
Agriculture is still a big part of the Hawaiian economy with sugar and pineapples being the most valuable in terms of export revenue, followed by macadamia nuts, coffee and flowers. Aquaculture is also showing promise. There is some manufacturing, mostly in the area of processed foods such as sugar, canned fruit and juices which have export markets but also in products for domestic consumption such as print, stone, glass products and clothing. The tourism industry itself creates a huge market for local produce, livestock and fish, in particular the swordfish and tuna that the seas around Hawaii are renowned for, and underpins a thriving cottage industry producing souvenirs and local crafts for the millions of people who visit each year.
Picture: imageteam – Fotolia