What Is the Major Source of Income in Hawaii?

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The major source of state income in Hawaii is tourism. Famous for its beaches, resorts, weather and scenery, Hawaii draws billions of dollars a year in visitor expenditures. By the end of the 20th century, tourism gradually replaced agriculture as the primary bread-winner for the archipelago.

Though tourism is the largest single income source for Hawaii, it is difficult to trace how this wealth is distributed over different sectors of the economy. This is because tourism affects a vast number of industries, ranging from retail to transportation to service industries like hotels, restaurants and health and wellness facilities. In 2005 alone, the Hawaiian Islands took in 11.5 billion dollars from tourism. In 2010, successes in tourism-related industries produced over 150,000 jobs for the state economy. Tourism become increasingly important in the late 20th and early 21st centuries due to declining fortunes in traditional agricultural staples, particularly pineapple and sugar. For example, sugar production ended completely on the big island of Hawaii in 1996.

Aside from tourism, Hawaii draws in major dollars from national defense spending and construction projects connected to private building permits. According to Alternative Hawaii, the state has also tried to diversify its economy in other sectors, including science and technology, film and television, diversified agriculture as well as ocean research and development.