Former Honolulu mayor tells HTM students growth in Hawaii's tourism is 'unthinkable'

Written by: 
Nathan Graham

Mufi Hannemann, former mayor of Honolulu and current CEO of the Hotel Lodging and Tourism Association, told BYU-Hawaii students tourism is the leading industry in Hawaii and one of the largest sources of private sector employment, which has not always been the case.


“This year, it is projected that 9.23 million visitors will visit Hawaii. Ten years ago this would have been unthinkable. For the last six years tourism has been on the rise, and we can’t take that for granted,” he said at a forum for hospitality and tourism management on Nov. 9.


Hannemann explained how the keys to ensuring the continued success of the tourism and hospitality in Hawaii will come from building up the state as a place that is healthy, safe, and affordable to visit.


The twice-elected mayor also highlighted the potential negative effects of too much tourism in Hawaii on local residents, like having too much traffic or overcrowding on the beaches. Hannemann posed the questions, “Are we at the point of overcapacity? Do we have too many tourists coming here? All questions will have to be addressed by the rising generation.”


The former mayor gave advice on key qualities needed by future leaders to combat the difficulties that will be presented to the industry. “You have to be able to say no [and] give me good news fast, but give me bad news faster. It’s the bad news that forces you to think, ‘What do I have to do to achieve our goals and make this happen?’”


Stressing the importance of finding joy in the journey, he said, “If we lose our imagination and our ability to be creative, then we are going to be complacent and stop progressing. That is what is so great about education. It pushes us to be creative and imaginative. Never stop learning.


“Start to identify people in your life who you know or have worked with or individuals from history who you look up to or admire. Identify traits and qualities that draw you to them, and develop those traits and qualities in yourself.”


Tyson Hunter, a HTM major from California, explained his surprise that a high-ranking official like Hannemann had such a great sense of humor and was so easy to talk to. “It was refreshing to be able to learn from someone that has had so much success and done so much good in their life but was still down to earth. It made it easy to relate to him.”


Chase Hartvigsen, a HTM major from Utah, explained his goal to strive to have the same leadership values of Hannemann in treating people right and to make work a pleasure for those that work with him.

Date Published: 
Friday, November 24, 2017
Last Edited: 
Friday, November 24, 2017