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Hawaii resident sentiment toward tourism worsens, but majority believe issues are worth it

The percentage of residents who feel that tourism has brought more benefits than problems trended to its worst level over the past year despite the pandemic-related loss of visitors.

Only 53% of respondents said tourism has brought more benefits than problems in the 2021 HTA Resident Sentiment Survey conducted by Omnitrak and released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority Thursday. Last year, some 54% of residents agreed with the statement.

Omnitrak president and COO Chris Kam said, “It’s the lowest measure since we started taking the survey in 1988.”

Kam said this year’s issues were the usual subjects.

“Just like the prior year, it’s overcrowding, traffic problems, damage to the environment, and higher cost of living,” he said.

Kam said that the data suggests that “residents have a hard-set attitude toward tourism regardless of current fluctuations in the market place.”

“Tourism has gone from an all time high and plunged to the bottom of the valley, and now we are coming back up,” he said. ” Through all of that,the question, ‘Is tourism creating more benefits than problems,’ has been trending downwards.’”

But Kam said a bright spot in the survey was that new research shows that the majority of Hawaii residents, some 76%, believe that tourism is worth the issues associated with the industry. He said they also see “managed tourism as a step in the right direction, although they aren’t convinced that it’s the end game.”

To succeed, Kam said managed tourism needs to be packaged so that residents understand and believe that tourism brings economic benefits and improves their quality of life.

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