Merrie Monarch: Major economic impact for local businesses

Merrie Monarch: Major economic impact for local businesses
Cindy Yarawami
Cindy Yarawami
Christine Reed
Christine Reed

Hilo hotels are at capacity and flights are sold-out -- Merrie Monarch is one of the largest draws to Hawai'i Island each year.  In fact, according to the Big Island Visitor's Bureau -- the Festival generates $2.9 million in direct and indirect sales to Hawai'i County.

Merrie Monarch week is so bustling-- businesses along Hilo's Bayfront, like Naupaka Island Designs, find it's necessary to not only bring in additional staff, but overstock as much as possible.

"Everything is handmade, most is locally made," described Cindy Yarawamai, one of three partners at the store, who make scarves and most of the artwork.  "I would work during the day and then I would have to work at night just to keep up, so you're going, going -- it's a busy time!" she explained, recalling how busy it was during Merrie Monarch last year. "Other vendors and artists that we bring in their work -- we tell them to double up so we have enough of a back-log that we can fill in when inventory starts to get low, so we can keep supplying." 
How much business spikes, depends on who you ask.

"Close to about 100% more, yeah? Ever since the recession goes down, so maybe 200% from the recession -- oh, it picks up!" described Kenneth Namba, a merchant at the Farmer's Market for the past 20 years.

It's clear Merrie Monarch has a distinct impact.

"Each year for merchants, it's like another mini-Christmas," said Christine Reed, owner of Basically Books and Petroglyph Press.

Basically Books even plans specific showcases catering to the Festival crowd.

"We have a lineup that includes two to three events a day for the week of Merrie Monarch-- four of those will be music events and the rest relate to books," described Reed.  
Local businesses say it's not just the economic impact that Merrie Monarch brings that has them looking forward to it each year, but the sense of pride in their community it instills.

"People from around the world they come and yeah, it helps the business around here and our name goes around the world too," said Namba.

"The enrichment of hula and the culture and what it brings to the Island. The history of hula, the Hawaiian music -- and just for people that come from all over the world to experience that," described Yarawamai. "It's a very exciting time because there's so much going on and you almost feel as if there's this energy or this high everyday -- yeah, so it's special."

"For a little town like Hilo, that's just kind of what we think of as a little hometown-- it's exciting to hit the international map for that week," said Reed.

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