A top CEO’s prescription for Hawaii’s tourism-driven economy: It’s time to diversify

Updated: Nov. 7, 2019 at 5:06 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Harvard Business Review recently ranked Ajay Banga the seventh best-performing CEO in the world.

Banga is the top executive at Mastercard, a company that makes more than $12 billion a year. And on Thursday, he was in Waikiki to meet with government and business leaders.

It was an invite-only event at The Royal Hawaiian honoring local companies named to the list of Hawaii Business Magazine’s top 250 businesses for 2019.

Banga took questions from the crowd and media regarding the state of Hawaii’s unique economy.

He characterized the state’s strong tourism and military sectors and its very low unemployment rate as “terrific,” but noted the obvious lack of variety in the economy as a whole.

“Clearly, if you could diversify to another leg of the stool,” Banga said. “If you are in tourism and government and you could get another leg that would be great.”

Banga believes that new leg to the state’s “revenue stool” would most likely need to come from technology to balance out Hawaii’s economy.

“Manufacturing is not something you are going to do with these islands and destroy what you have as the attraction for tourist,” Banga said.

He believes investments in Hawaii’s technology sector is important and logical because it does not need geographic proximity to enable success.

“Hawaii’s benefit is geographic distance. Hawaii’s problem is geographic distance,” he said.

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