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Don’t shun tourism, HTA tells isle residents

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Amanda Corby Noguchi and Mark Noguchi play with their youngest daughter at Mission Social Hall and Cafe, their restaurant at Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives. The couple appears in a video produced by the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority promoting tourism as a family business in the agency’s bid to highlight the industry’s benefits for skeptical locals.

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 Hawai‘i 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.

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

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  • Now, what are the “powers-that-be” (read, politicians) doing to DIVERSIFY the economy? The silence on that topic (diversification) is deafening. Can the average person working in the tourism industry afford to buy a house? Is the average income of a person working in the tourism industry enough to sustain a “living wage” without having to take on a second job? What will happen when the economies of the countries of origin of the tourists slip into recessions? Is it wise to have a “one-trick-pony” of an economy for Hawaii? Is anyone listening and/or paying attention to the “big-picture” ramifications of tourism?

    • Excellent point. I would add to your list:

      Hawaii is a state they prides itself on sustainability and a natural lifestyle, that is vulnerable to climate change and global warming, and that is already experienced the effects of rising sea levels and ocean acidification.

      In light of this, How is it that our economy is based upon the air transportation of 8 million tourists, back and forth across the oceans, several thousands of miles round trip, spewing a ton of carbon into the atmosphere for every one of them?

      Add in the CO2 released by ground transportation, interisland flights, hotel air conditioning, shipping of food and beverages for these these millions and millions of visitors and Hawaii isn’t looking very green after all.

      To make matters worse, our second largest industry, the US military is also a notorious user of fossil fuels and carbon polluter.

      We need sustainable diversification. Just how will be a challenge.
      See; http://calculator.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx?tab=3

  • If we don’t show da,”Aloha Spirit” tourist numbers will decline and numerioue jobs will be lost statewide and that wouldn’t be a good situation for everyone. If one can remember what happened after 9/11, The tourism industry took a nasty hit and jobs were affected emensely. The entire state was a ghost town and it took a long time to recover to Pre 9/11 numbers.

    Let’s always show da ALOHA SPIRIT!!!!

    • When our economy goes sour, it hurts locals the most. Locals need jobs to live in our high cost of living state. When locals lose their jobs and their homes to foreclosure, rich outsiders and investors swoop in and buy up real estate at bargain prices. That’s how average locals get squeezed out. Tourists patronize our businesses and bring money to our economy to sustain employment of locals. Tourists also pay general excise tax to help subsidize our government services that give us our quality of life. We need to give Aloha to our tourists who keep our economy going.

    • So the “Aloha Spirit” will counteract the effects of an event such as 911 and other economy related issues that generally affect travel and tourism to our beautiful isles? That is the reason some posters call for a more diversified economy here.
      Aloha

  • Comments were made on this related topic in yesterdays SA edition. I don’t believe we need to rehash what’s said Perhaps SA could repost yesterday’s sentiments.

  • The HTA’s position is offensive. Any increases in animosity toward tourists stems from the failure of government to effectively set and enforce boundaries for tourists, who seem to think nothing of overstepping the same boundaries and lines of courtesy and law abiding that WE observe as Hawaii residents every day. Add in the continuous conversion of natural as well as economic resources away from the needs, convenience and simple enjoyment of residents, to try to coax dollars out of tourist’s pockets (and too often and on too large a scale, then away from our shores in lion shares into overseas corporate owner pockets). The HTA’s true message seems to be, “You want to scratch out a living here? Lay down and take it with a smile.” Hey, HTA, you want people to be nicer to tourists? Why don’t you use your immense resources to try to figure out how to throw a bone or two to the experience makers who keep you employed? Might work better than ordering everyone to smile.

  • The Hawaii Tourism Authority should be asking themselves what is causing Hawaii’s residents to have disdain for the tourism industry and address those issues first. It’s very clear that residents are being negatively impacted by tourism “sprawl” into their residential communities and neighborhoods. Telling residents that tourism is important is not going to solve these 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.

  • It is not so much about negative views of the tourists as it is about the lousy job the government [ City & State] have done in planing to accommodate them and our local life style. We need a win-win for the locals … not a back seat! We need more parks, more parking, more clean public restrooms. We have exceeded our carrying capacity.

    • “Visitors” need to address their overall behavior towards the local community and I believe same will be reciprocated. Personally, in the past 10 years I’ve become disenchanted with dealing with transplants, transient workers and visitors. Look around…rather than acclimating to the community there seems to be antagonistic attitude…not all but more than I would like to admit.

  • Here on Kauai, most of the people who talk stink about tourists are transplants – those who have flown to and were not grown in Hawaii. They blame tourists for all the traffic and stuff. Yet I see so many out-of-state cars on Kauai’s roads that are being driven by new residents. They ought to think about things before they complain.

  • IRT “It’s just a tendency for people to start complaining,… Yes but it is not so much about the tourists as it is about the governments poor planning [and execution] to improve infrastructure and provide opportunities for both locals and the visitors. Many of the complaints are valid. I remember when some kids in the ko’olauloa area were throwing rocks at buses years ago. We got a similar campaign that talked about the the multiplier affect of a visitor dollar spent and how it moved through our economy. I still what a place to park when I go to visit our beaches … and a clean restroom. What Mr Mayor is doing in Ala Moana park is just kowtaow tokenism. As a whole we have arrive at the point of experiential diminishing returns.

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