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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, May 30, 2003

Tourism supported in survey

By Kelly Yamanouchi
Advertiser Staff Writer

Sentiment on tourism growth

Hawai'i residents were asked which of these statements came closest to their feelings about tourism growth:

• Unless we are sure some other major industry will work here, we must support more tourism growth: 40 percent

• We should not support any more tourism growth, even if that means the economy will stay the same or get worse: 7 percent

• We should support more tourism growth in the short term, but we have to accept long-term limits even if we can't find other major industries that will work here: 48 percent

• Other responses: 5 percent

Source: 2002 Survey of Resident Sentiments on Tourism in Hawaii, April 2003. Market Trends Pacific Inc., John M. Knox & Associates Inc.
Almost half of the Hawai'i residents surveyed by the state say they support growth of the $10 billion tourism industry in the short term but limits on expansion are needed for the future.

That was the sentiment of about 48 percent of 1,643 people surveyed from September 2002 to January on their attitudes toward tourism in the Islands.

Another 40 percent said they back growth "unless we are sure some other major industry will work here." Seven percent said they do not support any more tourism growth.

Results of the annual survey commissioned by the Hawai'i Tourism Authority and the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism were released yesterday.

Tourism officials hailed the results as positive, while critics said the survey shows that residents remain opposed to overdependence on the visitor industry.

"Almost everybody agrees that we're too dependent on tourism," said John Knox of John M. Knox & Associates Inc., which reported the results of the survey conducted by Market Trends Pacific Inc.

A full 85 percent said their island's economy is too reliant on the visitor industry. But "very few people opt for the no-growth strategy," Knox said.

Keith Vieira, senior vice president of Starwood Hotels and Resorts in Hawai'i and a tourism authority board member, said he was surprised by the positive responses on tourism expansion.

"That's pretty significant — the fact that 88 percent of the population believes there should be growth," he said, referring to the 40 percent and 48 percent who supported more tourism, with or without long-term limits.

About 77 percent of respondents also said tourism has brought more benefits than problems to their island, and 58 percent said more tourism jobs are needed.

The results contrast with feedback from residents speaking at public meetings, some authority board members said.

But one critic of overdevelopment said that residents long have been leery of the industry that is the main engine of the state economy.

"Residents for years now have been saying that our economy is far too dependent on tourism," said Jeff Mikulina, director of the Sierra Club in Hawai'i. "The sentiment from locals is it's overdeveloped, there's too much development that's devoted to the tourists."

Tourism has "tangible day-to-day impacts" on quality of life in the Islands, but diversifying tourism and protecting natural resources "in many ways can be positive if it's done right," Mikulina said.

The survey was mixed in several respects. For example, 58 percent of those responding said they do not want more hotels on their island, and about 52 percent opposed tax incentives to build or renovate hotels.

People also were split on whether their island is being run for tourists at the expense of local people — with 48 percent agreeing and 44 percent disagreeing.

Forty percent said their jobs depend greatly or somewhat on the strength of tourism. More than half, 52 percent, said most workers in tourism jobs have little opportunity to advance, and 49 percent said the best jobs go more often to "outsiders" than to local people.

Those surveyed held disparate views on where tourism should be allowed to grow on their island.

On O'ahu, more people than not supported growth in Kuilima, North Shore, Windward O'ahu, Waikiki, downtown, Honolulu other than downtown, Central O'ahu, Ko Olina, 'Ewa Marina, other parts of 'Ewa, Makaha and Wai'anae. The only O'ahu area where more residents opposed growth than supported it was Kailua.

Maui and Kaua'i residents were more often opposed than supportive of tourism growth on their islands, while Big Island respondents were more receptive to expansion.

Most people also thought tax revenues from tourism should go toward cleaning up the environment and public improvements in tourist areas.

Authority board members said the survey results will be useful in updating the authority's strategic plan for developing tourism.

"The next question is what decisions do we make differently with this data?" said David Carey, chief executive of Outrigger Enterprises Inc. and a tourism authority board member.

Market Trends and Knox said the survey of residents statewide had a 3.7 percent margin of error. The margins were larger for individual islands.

Reach Kelly Yamanouchi at 535-2470, or at kyamanouchi@honoluluadvertiser.com.