WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Waikiki Beach is shrinking again due to erosion, but soon there will be lots more sand for visitors and residents to enjoy. The sand will be replenished in a different area than the last project in 2006. Crews are doing the work in the winter when the surf is fairly flat along the south shore. The equipment will move in on Monday. The $2.3 million project will involve the closure of some parts of Kuhio Beach.
Waikiki Beach is packed with people from all over the world.
"Love it. It's great. Beautiful. Very beautiful," said visitors Joe Bostick and Stephanie Gorin of Toronto.
According to a new report from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, in the first quarter of 2012, airline seat capacity to the state is expected to rise 3.8% compared to the same period last year.
"A lot of that growth is on the neighbor islands, from the West Coast, and we see a lot of growth in Honolulu from our Asian markets. So it's good news for Hawaii," said Hawaii Tourism Authority president Mike McCartney.
While the tourism industry hopes to lure more visitors to Waikiki, the famous stretch of sand is shrinking due to constant erosion. According to the state, Hawaii could lose an estimated $2 billion in overall visitor expenditures and $150 million in tax revenue if nothing is done.
"What I'm afraid of is if we lose more sand that pretty soon lateral access along the shoreline in this critical part of Waikiki could be threatened, and that would be really bad for business," said Sam Lemmo, administrator for the Office of Conservation and Coastal Land.
The state held a blessing for the project that stretches from Kuhio Beach to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. A barge similar to the one used in 2006 will collect 24,000 cubic yards of sand from offshore and pump it through a pipe to a basin on the beach. Once the sand is dry, it will be blown into place using a new method. Parts of the beach will be blocked off for public safety.
"It's going to depend on how well the public reacts to the closures. If the public does not react positively, then we're going to have to take larger chunks out of public use," explained Department of Land and Natural Resources chair William Aila, Jr.
The beach will be 37 feet wider on average and about six feet higher, providing a lot more space for all those towels and mats.
"Waikiki Beach means a lot, not only to local residents, but it means a lot to our visitors, so it's a great investment in Hawaii's future."
The state, the Hawaii Tourism Authority, and Kyo-ya Hotels & Resorts will pay for the project. The work is expected to wrap up in late March, depending on the weather.