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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, March 1, 2008

Residents say state is run for tourists

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By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer


The Hawai'i Tourism Authority survey found varied reactions to these statements:

  • We need more tourism jobs on this island. Statewide, 43 percent agreed. That ranged from a high on the Big Island of 61 percent to a low of 33 percent on Kaua'i.

  • Is tourism mostly good or bad for you/family? Statewide, 45 percent said good. The highest percentage saying good was on Lana'i, 51 percent. The lowest percentage was from the east side of the Big Island, 31 percent.

  • Does tourism make overall quality of life better or worse? Statewide, 46 percent said better, fewer said no effect/unsure, and even fewer said "worse."

  • Even if more visitors come, no more hotels on this island. Statewide, 67 percent agreed, while that number zoomed to 80 percent on Moloka'i, and 79 percent on Kaua'i.

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    A summary of the report is at www.hawaiitourismauthority.org. The authority said it would post the full report soon.

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    A slim majority of Hawai'i residents told pollsters the state is run more for tourists than local people a significant shift in attitudes from the previous survey commissioned by the Hawai'i Tourism Authority.

    In 2007, 52 percent of those polled agreed with that statement, down 10 percentage points from those agreeing in 2006.

    The survey showed more critical views by Neighbor Islanders:

  • Maui: 66 percent of those surveyed agreed.

  • Kaua'i and Lana'i: 65 percent.

  • O'ahu: 49 percent.

    This is the sixth time the state's lead tourism agency has asked residents detailed questions about their attitude toward Hawai'i's No. 1 private industry.

    The survey found that 73 percent of residents agree with the view that the benefits of tourism exceed any problems associated with tourism, a result that has remained stable for years, the authority reported.

    Rex Johnson, Hawai'i Tourism Authority president and CEO, said he was encouraged by much of the report but not ready to ease up on various initiatives to improve the industry's profile in the community.

    "We're doing a decent job," Johnson said, "but there are some areas that we're going to need to work on."

    The report, prepared by Market Trends Pacific Inc. and John M. Knox & Associates Inc., polled 1,644 residents on their attitudes toward Hawai'i's $12 billion-a-year visitor industry. Johnson said the report cost $39,100 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent.

    Johnson said the attitude of residents is crucial to the industry.

    "If our residents are not happy with our industry, then the industry will not be successful over the long haul," he said.

    He said he was pleased that the community credits the industry more as helping with natural resources and the environment and with Hawaiian cultural initiatives.


    The survey, conducted in October through December 2007, is part of a series of telephone surveys which tracks residents' feelings about ongoing issues in the visitor industry, including, but not limited to, growth, quality of life, job quality and community values.

    Pollster Knox said it appears that the Neighbor Island residents are more critical because they have felt the impact of growth over the past decade more than on O'ahu.

    Tourism has been the economic growth engine for several decades; what people like and don't like about Hawai'i in general is equated with tourism, Knox said.

    And he said residents generally appreciate the dollar value but dislike the impact. "We like the economics, dislike the growth. In our bust cycle we appreciate economics more; in our boom cycles get more focused on downsides," Knox said.

    He said the industry has an opportunity to improve its image on environmental sensitivity, and by taking leadership initiatives in housing and traffic to help balance the benefits and problems.

    State tourism liaison Marsha Wienert said she was pleased that the overall sentiment seemed to be that tourism is good for residents.

    While those surveyed complained of increased traffic, higher housing costs and crime, Wienert said they didn't blame the visitor industry for creating the issues.

    "Those challenges were not because of tourism," she said.

    Johnson noted that residents were more likely to blame developers, speculators and government for problems.

    Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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