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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 14, 2006

There's a lot to talk stink about

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

Perhaps it's Hawai'i's booming economy or the daily traffic trauma. Maybe it's the crazy housing market or the way all the sweet things you remember from childhood got closed down, paved over, built up and too crowded (and you're not even middle-aged).

Or maybe folks have just reached the breaking point where they had to speak their truth.

Hawai'i is being run for the tourists at the expense of local people.

For the first time, local respondents to a survey dared to say so.

For decades, we've talked about it among ourselves but not publicly, in keeping with the old "no talk stink" credo.

These days, the myriad blogs and public opinion polls thrive on talking stink. These days, there's a lot of stink to talk about.

The survey of Hawai'i residents' sentiments on tourism, conducted by the research firm Market Trends Pacific in 2005 and released to the public this week, tracks residents' attitudes over time.

Over the past 17 years of doing similar surveys, some attitudes have remained fairly stable: local people still believe the benefits of the tourism industry outweigh the problems. They also believe the Hawai'i economy is too dependent on tourism. And, the majority doesn't want more hotel development.

The executive summary of the report reads:

"Perceptions about tourism jobs have remained fairly constant over time strong majorities appreciating the fact the industry offers a wide variety of jobs, but pluralities or slight majorities believing these jobs are characterized by poor hours and little chance for advancement, with the best positions going to outsiders rather than local people."

Yeah, well, no kidding. At least these days, we can all name a classmate from high school who works somewhere in management at a hotel; only one, maybe two, but certainly not six or eight or 10.

Another truth that finally came to light was that local people aren't cool with tourists tromping around rain forests and lava fields:

"... the idea that more visitor activity should be encouraged 'in wilderness areas' went from majority agreement in 2001-2002 to majority disagreement in 2005."

That same kind of desire to contain tourism sprawl surfaced in responses to other questions, such as:

"... in all four counties, about 70% agreed that B&Bs and vacation rentals 'should be strictly controlled and limited to areas where nearby residents agreed to allow them.' "

So do you think all this dissatisfaction will make a difference? Will things now turn the other way?

Well, that question wasn't included in the survey, but if it was, the choice of answers would have to include the response: "Yeah, right."

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.