Tourism officials view Southwest’s arrival as significant boost to Hawaii’s economy

Tourism officials expect a major boost to Hawaii’s visitor industry and more choices for island residents when Southwest Airlines jumps into the market.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority says Southwest is a major airline with a huge loyal base of customers, so it’s a big deal.

Hawaii residents see Southwest as a source of potentially cheaper fares to the mainland. HTA sees it as an economic boon for the West Coast market.

Southwest is expected to provide services to West Coast cities.

“Any time we get a new flight, it has a big impact. It’s a significant amount of revenue that comes to the state,” says Randy Baldemor, Hawaii Tourism Authority’s chief operating officer. “I can’t give exact numbers, but it will be in the tens of millions of dollars of investment into the state.”

HTA says Southwest also has a lot of loyal customers. Since it has connecting flights from all across the mainland, passengers from different parts of the country will fly to the West Coast and then to Hawaii.

“Southwest is a very big network and that’s one of the values this will bring to their passengers who are all over the United States is that now they can bring those visitors to Hawaii,” said Baldemor.

Tourism officials were forecasting that arrivals from the West Coast will go up about one percent each year for the next three years. With Southwest jumping in to the market, that should go up, but it’s not clear how much.

As for the possibility that Southwest will fly interisland, it would give island residents more options, which Baldemor says is always a good thing.

Southwest has expressed interest in Hawaii for years, so we wanted to know why it’s happening now.

“How much did HTA do to get this deal done?” KHON2 asked.

“I wouldn’t say we did too much. It’s a basic level support that we provided. Basically we can provide information about the market,” said Baldemor. “They were interested in Hawaii and we did our best to, like I said, provide the information and share that aloha.”

As for Southwest’s biggest impact, “I think that remains to be seen,” Baldemor said. “I think it’s enough that there’s a new carrier that hasn’t served Hawaii that has now signaled that they want to provide that service, and being able to provide that service to our residents and also to their customers is I think a very significant impact.”

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