Kailua-Kona, Hawaii – Between dealing with terrorism threats and crises abroad, President Obama is unwinding in Hawaii with his family this week. They’ve snorkeled in pristine bays and dined in fashionable restaurants. Tourism officials only wish there were thousands more visitors like them.

Tourism is the glue that holds this island state’s finances together, keeping its streets clean, its workers paid and its children educated. But for the last two years, vacationers and conventioneers alike have abandoned Hawaii in favor of less exotic destinations closer to home. The result is an unprecedented slowdown in the industry and some cavernous cracks in the state’s budget.

Hawaii was so short of cash last year that it furloughed teachers and suspended school for 17 Fridays during the academic year, giving students the fewest school days of any state in the union. Home foreclosures and bankruptcy filings are soaring. The unemployment rate has more than doubled over the last two years to 7.0%. Though that’s well below the national average of 10.0%, it’s a stunner for a place that just a few years ago boasted a jobless rate of less than 3%.

See the full report here: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hawaii-tourism2-2010jan02,0,3417201.story?track=rss

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