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Agency to Hawaii residents: Don’t hate on tourists

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / JAN. 2016

    Tourists crowded Waikiki Beach with a record 8.6 million visitors that came to Hawaii last year.


    Chef Mark Noguchi, right, and his wife Amanda Corby Noguchi played with their youngest daughter at Noguchi’s restaurant, Mission Social Hall and Cafe, in Kakaako on April 14. The state agency promoting travel to Hawaii is starting an online video campaign to remind local residents about tourism’s benefits, including a video featuring Noguchi talking about tourism and his family.

As a record number of visitors stream into Hawaii, state officials want residents to know: Tourism is your friend.

The agency that promotes travel to Hawaii is starting an online video campaign to remind locals about the benefits of the state’s biggest employer.

The first installment features Honolulu chef Mark Noguchi talking about his brother-in-law’s job at a Waikiki restaurant and his uncle’s work building resorts. He closes the 30-second video saying: “Take care of tourism. It’s a family business.”

The campaign is aimed at showing tourism helps a broad cross-section of the state, not just those who work in hotels or at other jobs directly in the industry, said Leslie Dance, the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s vice president for marketing and product development. People sometimes forget how important tourism is and start lamenting there are too many people around, particularly when business is good, she said.

“It’s just a tendency for people to start complaining,” Dance said. “And so the thing is, let’s remind everybody again.”

But not everyone in Hawaii is on board.

Critics say the industry offers poorly paid jobs and exploits Hawaiian culture. But many complaints are about increased traffic and congestion.

The campaign comes as the state tries to maintain the momentum that brought a record 8.6 million travelers to Hawaii last year, the fourth-straight year of record-breaking visitor arrivals. Industry officials attribute the growth to an increase in flights and Hawaii’s enduring popularity with global travelers.

Online review sites like Yelp are directing tourists to restaurants, hikes and beaches in residential areas where travelers rarely ventured decades ago. Websites like Airbnb also allow more visitors to spend the night in neighborhoods instead of Waikiki hotels, even when most Oahu vacation rentals are illegal under county law.

Rena Risso, a 30-year-old who was born and raised in Kailua, understands the positive aspects of tourism, but she believes they’re outweighed by the negatives.

“I think, as far as the local’s point of view, it’s humbug,” she said after an early morning walk. “I can’t even take my kids to the beach on a weekend because it’s so crazy.”

The tourism agency should do more than promote “uncritical support for the growth of tourism,” said Jonathan Osorio, a professor of Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. It should be required to consider the long-range effects of continued growth on Hawaii’s resources and society, he said.

“The admonishment that we should take care of tourism because it’s a family business is a slick seduction that wants to avert the public’s attention from the industry’s abuses,” Osorio said in an email.

Dance called the campaign an inexpensive, grass-roots way to have a conversation. The videos cost $18,000 each and are posted on the tourism authority’s YouTube channel.

The second clip shows Renee Kimura of Kimura Lauhala Shop discussing how tourists support the Big Island store her great-grandfather founded over a century ago. The next video will be filmed on Kauai.

People should be reminded of tourism’s benefits so they’ll treat visitors well and encourage them to come back, said Henry Maumalanga, a hotel security guard who lives in Honolulu.

“A lot of tourists come here just because of the aloha spirit and all of that. They hear about all that kind of stuff,” he said. “And we got to show it.”

For Amanda Corby Noguchi, an event planner who appears in the first video alongside her husband, tourism is a way to teach people about Hawaii. Her husband, for example, has taken visiting friends and other travelers to fishponds and taro patches in Heeia to show them how organizations are reviving traditional forms of Hawaiian agriculture. Taro is a starchy vegetable used to make a traditional dish called poi.

“It’s an opportunity to educate people about what real Hawaii is, and what matters,” she said.

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  • Jon Osorio is an intelligent, well-meaning man but we have to remember that he is pro-sovereignty to a certain degree, and those of us islanders who enjoy the benefits of being American should consider him an enemy.

    • What?! are you serious? What is wrong for him to seek sovereignty nothing wrong with that. He is just fighting for what he thinks is right. The beginning of your post was wow, the ending was just backwards. So sad for you.

    • You are the enemy if you do not respect the right of others voicing their opinions. You know Texas is talking the same thing. Are they enemies as well?

      • Someone who wants to undermine the validity of my citizenship is. I was born here and I have nothing to do with the Hawaiian Kingdom. My family has been here over 100 years and my direct ancestors (but I do have many Kanaka maoli cousins, including first cousins) have nothing to do with the Hawaiian Kingdom. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that Dr. Osorio is morally wrong in any way. He’s someone that people should look up to in many ways. But someone who wishes me out of my birthplace is an enemy. I don’t know how else you could look at it.

        • It takes a closet hater to turn a discussion on tourism into a hawaiian bashing session.

    • Correct Eros, the sovereignty movement is one of disunity. Tourism is not growth and societal resources. It’s the goose that lays the golden egg. But, of course the sovereignty fringe doesn’t care about golden gooses, they just want political control and last say on everything based on their race. Got TMT?

  • They must be speaking of the Kailua HATERS CLUB Called the Keep it Kailua gang ran by the chief hater himself Huivaa, Chuck Prentiss & Larry Bartley are the ringleaders who want Kailua for themselves and want the government to harass its citizens. WHAT HAPPENED TO SHARE HAWAII AND THE WORD ALOHA for those who visit our islands. Shame on them & may Karma follow them as they try and visit other areas of the world. Remember them as they are the people trying to destroy Oahu with their selfish ways.

    • Shame on you for supporting illegal activities. Chuck and Larry do not hate tourists. You on the other hand have intentionally mischaracterized their activities in public, identified them directly in public, and held them up for public ridicule by placing them in a bad light. If you have the guts, put your name in your comments in public records like this so they can sue you for defamation.

        • IRT shanik, Nice try but I have been here since the 70″s and have relatives with 3 & 4 kids who visit and stay in rentals to enjoy Kailua. They don’t want to spend $300.00 per night and have to eat out 3 times a day at ridiculous prices when they can get a nice apartment or home with cooking facilities.
          So you must be one of those who Hates the tourists as well. You must remember that most of Hawaii depends on the tourist for their jobs in one form or another.Sooooo Love the tourists and Share Hawaii’s ALOHA

        • I’ll love the tourists when they realize they’re in Rome and should do as the locals do. Sick and tired of self-centered tourists who think the world revolves around them.

        • When you yourself pay for goods and services don’t you want it your way “thevisitor967”?

    • I live in Kailua but I love the tourists. You’re talking about the exclusive people who live in Lanikai who want special rules for themselves and to keep tourists off the public beach. I recognize what the tourists represent and welcome them, often striking up conversations with tourists.

      If you’re ever been to Japan, you know that the Japanese have the aloha spirit.

      • Agreed…while visiting Japan you are treated very well. However, take a step back and look at the type of visitors that Japan attracts…O.K. now take a look at what type of visitors we attract. On the other hand I also opt not to visit locations that I don’t feel compelled to visit. For example, in the 80’s I loved to visit S.F…but not anymore. It works both ways.

      • I also live in Kailua and love the pulse of Kailua! There are many haters in Kailua, they even have bumper stickers that say Kailua was nice till you came! Auwe you Cryluans!

        • Kailua has changed into Kaikiki. Used to be very cohesive, local, now nor do much. That’s a fact. Malihini love Target. Kamaaina miss Holiday Mart/Daiei/Don Quixote.

  • Good campaign – There are a lot of angry people in Hawaii. They hate anyone who appears to be better off than them – tourists, mainland transplants, property buyers, businessmen, etc. You can even sense it here by the negative comments they make against different groups of people.

    • The real issue is what is causing Hawaii’s residents to have disdain for the tourism industry? It’s very clear that residents are being negatively impacted by tourism sprawl into their communities and neighborhoods. Telling residents that tourism is important is not going to solve those problems. Local residents don’t want to be living next to mini-hotels in their neighborhoods. So the sensible solution is to enforce our current zoning laws and only allow visitor lodging in resort areas where they have minimal impact on residents.

      • The real elephant in the room is that the population in Hawaii is growing, regardless of tourism, or people moving here. More people are born every year on Oahu than people are dying. So, if no one moves here the population is slowly but surely growing out of control. And what is the largest growing race? The Polynesians. But, everyone knows why don’t we? Because every baby just means more “benefits” and “free stuff”.

        • the free stuff not only adds to population growth, but perpetuates a subculture.
          It may be time to regulate how long a “family” can get all the free benefits before at least working for minimum wage (let them get some benefits as long as they agree to work), or hire them to keep their homeless villages clean

  • It’s the same old story coming in cycles, like every 10 or 15 years, when the numbers go up and everyone starts getting angry at the tourists, then when the numbers fall, everyone cries that they want to visit. People directly not involved in the tourism industry can’t see how everything is connected, whether directly or indirectly. In 2001, when 9/11 happened, how everyone was crying for visitors. The state spent big money to target Japanese travelers, which was down 15%. I guess Hawaii is ready for another cycle.

  • It really isn’t the tourists, it’s these useless taxpayer fund sucking leech type government agencies that we are upset with. The industry just had a record breaking quarter and yet they still use our tax dollars to fund their advertising campaigns.

    Look at the story about the Maili brush fire on State land. You know the State is going to say they don’t have money for upkeep and that’s cause we waste it on these agencies that are only operating to enrich friends and cronies of the party in power.

    • right on!!!! the next article should be “Hawaii taxpayers to Hawaii Government. Done’t hate on residents with your waste, fraud and abuse.”

      • It’s part of the fleecing of America. Over tax everyone except the super rich and then funnel the money into secret bank accounts AKA the “Panama Papers”….

        • Think about this. Why does government need so much tax revenue? The rich already pay more taxes than everyone should they pay even more because they make more? I am all for that but it just does not sound right. There should be a ceiling on what you have to pay in taxes otherwise the government is literally stealing your money. Take away the corruptible deductions and pay flat rates according to your income level maybe? Loopholes abound….

        • You have it all wrong.

          First, we all pay the same Tax rates. Bill Gates pays no tax on his first 10k, little on the next, more on the next, and so on until he hits the top brackets. You and I pay jyst as much on our income above x-million as Gates. Just happens for me that amount = $0, but our rates are the same.

          Second, the best way to prevent the wealthy from extracting capital from the productive economy as personal profit is with very high rates on the top bracket (70-90%). This encourages revenues to instead be reinvested back into their businesses, avoiding taxes, retaining wealth and generating economic activity and jobs. This is one reason the US economy boomed and people didn’t need government handouts in the 1950s 60s 70s,when top income tax rates were never below 70%. During the Eisenhower years they were never below 90%.

          Low top income tax rates encourage wealth extraction, not jobs.

  • Don’t kill the goose that is laying the golden egg(s)–if not tourism what has Hawaii got?–very little–we got the money pits of the homeless and the panhandlers and the rail–no sugar + no pineapple + dwindling military spending–and then we got the TMT that should be bringing in money to Hawaii and the island of Hawaii the “radicals” trying to stop it–I guess we got to go bust and tax the working locals to death before we learn–have I missed anything? Ciao! Enjoy the coming recession!

  • This brings up the issue of Hawaii’s constitution in which with state is mandated to “…plan and manage the growth of the population to protect and preserve the public health and welfare…” The Hawaii State in general, and Oahu in particular have a severe homeless issue, which by any measure has a negative impact on the health and welfare of both the homeless and the communities in which they are encamped. To date, both the state and city/county of Honolulu have failed to provide for the protection and promotion of the public health. At the same time we have the Hawaii Tourism Authority burning through more than a hundred million dollars a year promoting further increases in the population and now spending their resources on divisive advertising essentially lecturing residents on their behavior. Would not those resources be better used to provide financial assistance, medical assistance and social services for persons who are found to be in need of and are eligible for such assistance and services as provided by law?

  • I made the mistake of booking a flight to the mainland with a 1:10 PM departure–I usually book for 9 AM but circumstances dictated the change. WHAT A ZOO—I couldn’t believe the confusion at the ticketing/TSA/no lines, just people milling trying to figure which end is up. Go to one entry to deliver your bags then go out again to get on line AGAIN for security. I talked to security and he said it’s like this everyday from 11 until 3. I wonder how foreigners cope with this–I am local and had problems. The airport is a third world country facility–we need to correct this to get the tourists to come back. Take that ad money and use it for airport upgrades!! And, since we have a captive audience–just imagine if we had a lottery and tourists just spent $10 apiece?????

    • That was my experience the last time at the airport too. Next time I’ll get there extra early. But there are signs all over saying the airport is being remodeled. And I haven’t heard anyone say they won’t come to Hawaii because of the airport.

    • Let’s face it. Our airport is a dump compared to some states and countries around the world. They should tear the whole place down and start all over again but that will never happen. For example, when you land at the airport in Oslo, you know that you are in Norway the minutes you step out of the plane. Why can’t they make our airport say “Welcome To Hawaii”.

  • In the very near future what is to see in in Hawaii that’s unique and worth traveling coming here? Our city is developing to become a clone like any mainland city. High rise, traffic, and the albatross rail!! Our greatest asset is the intangibles and that too is slowly eroding toward becoming mirror images of the world. It’s the majority people in our State! Especially those born and raised during the plantation era and their descendants! Many may not realize that these were the “corner stones” that gave us the unique blend of easy, loving and gentle people of Hawaii! Soon these too will be a thing in the past!

    • Very true.

      Like uku’s “World Class City” propaganda. He doesn’t even realize that people came here because this wasn’t like other places. And now his ilk are making it like every other city people are fleeing from.

      • Rich outsiders and investors from all over the world are coming here to buy up real estate and driving the price of homes out of reach of average locals. Rail helps average locals who only can live on the more affordable west side who are suffering in traffic commuting to work. Rail will give them an alternative to bypass traffic with a fast train ride. Rail will also alleviate traffic taking some cars off the road. Many locals are moving away because they can’t stand the suffering and then get squeezed out when they can’t afford to come back and pay higher housing costs. Then Hawaii eventually becomes only for rich people. World class city is good for attracting tourists but locals should be able to enjoy it also.

        • uku-ele ele, rail is now a part of the high cost of living. Waipahu and Pearl City has never looked so ugly. Politicians are hell bent on developing every last square foot of our island. Tourism is our #1 industry yet politicians prefer to cater to developers and fill their own campaign funds rather than enhance our position as one of the top vacation destinations in the world.

        • BS: For W Oahu to town commuters their total commute time will close to DOUBLE of taking a feeder bus to Hoopili station, fight to board the train, endure train stops every mile, fight to get off the train at Ala Mo Center and fight to board a feeder bus to their final destination either UH Manoa or the surround private schools or Waikiki. Compare this to a W Oahu commuter taking a SINGLE City Express! bus that picks them up in Kapolei or Ewa Beach and takes them DIRECTLY to UH Manoa or Wakiki. Of course if they are allowed to complete the rail after spending 10 BILLION of taxpayers money, they will shut down those City Express! routes and FORCE W Oahu commuters to take the bus/train/train commuter nightmare. On Oahu and NOT any other place in the world, it is the University and private school commuter crowd that tips Oahu weekday traffic from gridlock to bearable. The Oahu train does NOTHING for them but DOUBLE their commute time.

  • This is an insult to hardworking taxpaying residents. For a state agency to use our funds to tell us what is so obvious in our everyday life is ludicrous. What next? Telling us we should be happy that the world is round? Spend the money to fix the roads. Auwe.

  • I think 8.5 million is about 2 million too many. I am reminded of the old adage about killing the goose that laid the golden egg. We’re there right now, killing our goose.

  • This is an important discussion with interdisciplinary implications across the board. We need a win-win scenario with transparency and all of the pluses and minuses on top of the table for review. I hope it is not just a PR white wash. At some point it is about carrying capacity and subjective quality of life issues. This, of course, takes us right back to our government and how good their plans are and how well they are executed. A real fair question is, “How much is too much? and, as the kid in the back seat is so famous for repeating, “Are we there yet?”. When the locals loose and the tourists win … it does not work. We need more parking. We need more pull-offs on the sides of the roads for the buses and vans [like the Pali lookout and Makapu’u]. We need more decent public rest rooms at parks. Tourism is a big elephant with lots of variable perspectives: psychological, legal, economic, tangible, political, cultural/anthropological and many more.

  • Folks please wake up! How ironic that the State (spending your tax dollars)is starting another PR campaign to have us Locals share the Aloha Spirit and be nice to visitors coming to Hawaii….who is making the big profits every quarter (as reported each quarter for the last two years….record occupancy rates, record daily room rates, etc etc)….It’s da.the Waikiki mafia, or the better known as WALL STREET is quietly owning most of Waikiki and key neigbor island high end resort areas….The hotel operators…Sheraton, Marriotts, etc are just window dressing….just care taking the hotel properties to the BIG WALL STREET HUIs who flip these properties every 5-7 years to another mainland or foreign equity group…GET the picture??? We are pawns,another fancy type plantation economy, working to make profits for folks who have no connection to Hawaii…just want to see bottom line proifts every quarter…so wen the Waikiki hotel Mafia tell Mayor Kirk to cleanup Waikiki and sweep the homeless away…they want to quarrantee their profits and nice properties so they can be sold in the future…How cum the Waikiki hotel mafia, with all da $$$ millions they make each year, cannot contribute $5 to $10 million a year to help beautify Waikiki, help nearby schools (and they need some kala to fix needed repairs), and how about fixing up da ZOO…and most importantly, work with the State with outreach, shelter, supportive services and housing for the homeless who want to get better and work again…Waikiki hotels have one of the best job training programs for those who want to work basic services like housekeeping, janitorial, light maintenance, food service…How about making a pledge to hire at least 200 homeless this year, esp those who want to work….unemployment below 5% now so many service jobs going vacant…..Mayor gotta stand up to Waikiki hotel owner bullies and tell them enough…da Waikiki mafia buggahs making plenty kala off our natural beauty and kindness of our people….wake up folks!

    • Respect for tourist is a 2 way street. But, I find, most tourist, are polite and respectful. I’ve always felt that you keep them in Waikiki and let them venture out. Without tourism I don’t know how local people would thrive. Thats a lot of jobs!

    • MrsCD – if the tourists stop coming to Hawaii, your “state tax” and every other cost will skyrocket and you will be begging them to come. You and your family may even lose your jobs.

  • It isn’t just tourists, a lot of “locals” hate all haoles and the military. This can range from a general distain to an outright hostile attitudes, bad service, name calling, and attacks.

  • I looooove tourists, (When they stay in Waikiki….!!!) Can’t enjoy our own island anymore. The once simple pleasures of a family picnic at what was once a park and now a parking lot above Hanauma Bay, gone forever along with other places, not for locals anymore.

  • The State of Hawaii’s economy is so dependent on tourism dollars that the local people feel that they are being pushed to the side. I hardly ever go to Waikiki because I feel out of place.

    • Yes IRT Bully our State is dependent on tourism. How many people here have had a son, daughter, mom, father, aunty, uncle, work in a hotel, farms, restaurant, entertainment (hula halau) or for that matter the airport, in any capacity or at the mall or shopping establishment. Jobs people, yes we depend on tourism…even Mr. Osorio, his family I’m sure has depended on the tourists..

      • Yeah Readergirl, but 8,500,000 and climbing….!?!?!? When is enough, enough? 10 million, maybe 16 million, 20 million..? Enough already, need to scale back or just make it law to keep them in Waikiki already.

    • Waikiki sucks. There is no charm to Waikiki, anymore. Waikiki is all concrete, steel, and glass, just like ** insert any major mainland city name here **.

      • Am I the only one that thinks all the large full color pictures on the construction fences for the hug condos in Waikiki are incongruous? They have the nerve to show us all the sights (sea and mountains and sky) that their huge buildings are making disappear! It is totally ridiculous, what are they thinking?

    • Out of place in Waikiki is a good description Bully! Sit in traffic on Ala Moana Blvd, McCully, and Kalakaua and then find your way to your hotel destination. I think twice before even accepting a wedding or party invitation on a Friday or Saturday night in Waikiki.

      • I know the feeling, I go down to Waikiki and feel like a foreigner in my own land. Ala Moana shopping center is full on foreign, locals donʻt shop there, but I guess you can consider this our big employment boost, working for peanuts at Coach, Neiman Marcus. etc. selling a brand bags for $2000. Whoopee.

      • Use to walk to thru Waikiki and back home for leisure. On occasion we would have a nice brunch and walk back home…not anymore. It’s not my imagination, wife also says that the overall atmosphere of tourist traffic has changed for the worst. Ala Moana…don’t go there anymore…use to be a nice place to walk thru and window shop…changed from a blend of Tourist and Community Shopping to guess what?…Tourist Boutique shops…

    • I hear you. I go down a couple of times year to check on some old friends from the beach. Make sure they have a meal and still have a place to stay. Over the years Waikiki has lost its charm, its dangerous at night and the sidewalk vendors are too intrusive. Just not the same.

  • “Be nice to visitors, smile, say “Aloha’,” says the government. OK. But, you be nice to us residents first. Then maybe we’ll feel like smiling and saying “Aloha”.

    • Yep…as my grandmother and mother said to me, “No let anybody take cheap on you!”…they grew up on Big Island sugar plantation. Respect giveth respect given…goes both ways.

    • True! But/& … Question? How many locals “…don’t respect the Aina …”? I see plenty of opala left behind from locals including diapers, cigarette butts, etc … ; (

  • b s. tourists are the friend of the people in Hawaii who rake all the profits, period. the rest of us suffer the coastal overdevelopment and traffic they cause. who you trying to snow?

  • In my opinion, it’s a question of vacation / tourist behavior mentality (i.e. the “Ugly American”). In the past tourist were tolerable, recently I’ve personally experienced behavior that I find inappropriate. Unless it’s my imagination, some of the creative driving styles have been on the uptick (i.e. the U-turns on Kapahulu and Kapiolani) and the flipping off of other drivers…maybe it’s just me. Not to mention the way they treat the local folks (i.e. go to Safeway – Kapahulu and observe behavior to locals and cashiers). Hence, there are some issues that may be attributed to the way locals feel about tourists and I don’t believe it’s cyclic…it’s getting worst. So perhaps a message to “our tourist” should run parallel to the message you send to our Community.

  • The State and City agencies responsible for overseeing tourism and enforcing laws that were put on the books to help keep affordable houses affordable for residents are doing a lousy job. If the government would just enforce the rules that are on the books much of these issues would not be issues at all.

  • Too many people on this Island, that’s for sure. The population has almost doubled since I was a child, how many more people can the island sustain? Why doesn’t the state encourage and direct growth to the outer islands? There’s more people living in Kaimuki than the entire island of Maui or Kauai.

    • “Saywhatyouthink”, I am from Oahu and live on Oahu,I would not want to wish this on any of the other islands, leave them alone and learn from the mistakes made here.

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