Despite Decades of Effort, Little Success In Economic Diversification Efforts

Jun 8, 2020

Despite decades of effort, state and local government in Hawaii have had little success in fostering diversification of the islands' tourism-centric economy. The COVID-19 pandemic recession has once again generated calls for standing up new industries and expanding existing ones that do not include tourism.

This series explores what some of those industries of the future might be and what local leaders can do to bringa about their growth.

Canton Harbor, now called Guangzhou, in China as depicted in 1800. The port was China's main point of trade with western world, including sandalwood from the Kingdom of Hawaii. The sandalwood trade dominated Hawaii's economy until the 1830's.
Credit Hawaiian Time Machine

 Amid Calls For Diversification, A Look Back At Hawaii's History of Single-Industry Dominance

Hawaii’s main industry, tourism and hospitality, has been one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Policymakers have been calling for economic diversification for decades, but single-single industry dominance has been the norm for centuries.


A coffee farm on Hawaii Island.
Credit Osiristhe / Flickr

 Expanding Local Agriculture Into A Major Economic Industry Poses Challenges

Sales of farm products currently represent just 0.6% of Hawaii Gross Domestic Product. Experts say there are opportunities for it to grow, but substantial challenges as well.