UH report: Same-sex marriage could boost tourism by $217M

The Sheraton Waikiki has more than 1,600 rooms with several restaurants and bars, and more than 1,100 employees.

Business is good, but hotel occupancy rates could always be better.

Kelly Sanders, the general manager of the Sheraton Waikiki, feels there is an untapped segment out there.

“I think people have waited a long time to get married. So I think there’s a pent-up demand that’s really gonna happen over the next two years,” Sanders said.

The new economic analysis from the University of Hawaii says legalizing gay marriage in the state would boost tourism by $217 million over the next three years.

The study from UH’s Economic Research Organization also says that would boost state and local general excise tax revenues by $10.2 million from 2014 through 2016.

“If we were gonna go out to try to market and find $217 million, it would cost us a lot more money, when really what we should be doing is just doing the right thing,” Sanders said.

But will the report help the legalization of gay marriage in Hawaii? State Rep. Chris Lee thinks so.

“We talk about aloha and diversity and respect for others, and that’s really what this is about. And I think there’s no reason we should continue discriminating against anyone, which is why I think that the legislature, whether it’s a special session soon or next year, will inevitably deal with this,” said Rep. Lee (D) Kailua, Waimanalo.

A proposed constitutional amendment died in committee in the House earlier this year, while a Senate resolution passed asking for further study on the issue.

The state Legislature reconvenes its regular session in January.

Click here to read the full report.

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