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by Jessica McDunn, University Relations

An HPU Travel Industry Management professor is using the Honolulu Marathon as an example of the global strengths of tourism.

Dr. Jerome Agrusa and a team of HPU TIM students surveyed runners participating in the 34th Honolulu Marathon last month in order to evaluate the impact of runners from Japan on the local economy.

More than 28,000 runners signed up for the 2006 run. Agrusa is trying to determine how many of these traveled to Hawai‘i from Japan and how many brought family and friends to cheer them on. His results have already impressed Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

“ What’s particularly interesting and exciting,” said Hannemann, “is the revelation that more than 90 percent of the runners said they would return, not to run in the marathon, but to visit Hawai‘i.”

In 2005, more than 17,000 runners were from Japan, and it’s believed that more than 30,000 additional Japanese tourists visited the islands during the same time period. Also, 16 of the top 25 finishers were from Japan.

“ The (economic) impact is so much larger than just the runners,” said Agrusa. “This is probably the largest single event for tourism in Hawai‘i.”

Hannemann said “This study confirms what we’ve known all along: The Honolulu Marathon is not only a premier sporting event, but also a vital part of Hawai‘i’s economy. It generated more than $100 million in visitor spending [in 2005], at what used to be a slow time of year for the visitor industry.”

Since Agrusa began analyzing the race in 2001, his findings have appeared in the Wall Street Journal and Forbes Magazine, and organizers of the Honolulu Marathon have come to depend on the statistics provided by the HPU professor and his students.

“ I think it’s great that the students get to use what they learn in the classroom,” said Agrusa. He added: “They get to meet people and realize that tourism is really significant to Hawai‘i.”

The lesson is not lost on the students. “Helping out at events like this is a great opportunity for networking,” said TIM junior Mel Smith. “We really get a feel for what we will be doing when we graduate from HPU,” Smith added. “This kind of study provides the Honolulu economy with the opportunity to forecast for events like this, to plan ahead, and to budget.”

With the success of this study, Agrusa is hoping to study other local events. “We’re told this type of project should be done for all events in Hawai‘i,” Agrusa said.

According to Hanne-mann, three-fourths of the marathoners felt Hawai‘i should be expanding its sports tourism market with other amateur events, including running, bicycling, and swimming.

Honolulu Marathon sponsors included JAL, Nike, DC, Konami, Amino-Value, DoCoMo, and Satohap. Charity groups included Leukemia and Lymphoma SocietyTeam in Training Program, The National AIDS Marathon Training Progam, Joints in Motion, Team ACS, and Team DiabetesCanada.

For more infomation on the Honolulu Marathon and marathon news updates: honolulumarathon.org.

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