Tourism impacts study moving

Those who were clamoring for an in-depth study to determine tourism’s impacts on the state’s infrastructure, environment, economy and culture got their wish, and are encouraged by state officials to participate in the ongoing sustainable tourism study.

A meeting to discuss the study thus far, and to solicit public input into the study, Planning for Sustainable Tourism in Hawai’i, is set for Monday, Nov. 25, at 7 p.m. in the Kauai High School cafeteria.

Dr. John Knox, the project’s consultant for public input and socio-cultural impact research, and Dr. Peter Adler, a facilitator, will conduct the Lihu’e meeting, part of a statewide series leading up to the final project report in December of next year.

“The study will analyze the ways in which tourism and its growth affects Hawai’i’s infrastructure, environment, economy and culture,” said Dr. Seiji Naya, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.

A Web site has been established, www.hawaiitourismstudy.com, where written comments are being accepted. Draft reports and other products of the project are being posted on the Web site as they become available.

“These meetings will engage interested people in the community in a discussion on growth and change in the visitor industry,” said Dr. Pearl Imada Iboshi, head of DBEDT’s Research and Economic Analysis Division.

“We will have short presentations by the study consultants, and then conduct workshops in which people can discuss their ideas on several important topics,” she said.

Topics will include issues that most people hope or most worry could be affected if long-term tourism growth is as large as current projections indicate; island-specific assets and values that most need preservation in the face of possible tourism growth and change; and measurable indicators that would give early warnings about whether tourism growth is producing desired or undesired impacts on that island.

The project is being conducted to develop strategies and policy tools to predict and help ease the impacts of future tourism growth. A total of three separate studies are being conducted under the project to look at specific aspects of tourism growth impacts.

These include reports on Hawai’i’s public resources and environment; an analytical model of potential impacts; and an investigation into social impacts and public perceptions.

The meetings on all the islands this month are the first of two rounds of public meetings scheduled to gather input. The second round of meetings will be held in the summer of next year, to present tentative results and gather even more public input.

More information on this month’s meetings may be obtained by calling Dr. John Knox & Associates, 1-808-532-0719.

“The Web site is an integral part of the study, providing a means to obtain public input about tourism’s impacts,” Naya said.

The study grew out of concerns in government and the industry that there was no effective way to measure and forecast the impact of tourism growth on expensive infrastructure systems (water and roads, for example).

Also, representatives of environmental and governmental agencies have become increasingly concerned about how tourism growth may be affecting the natural environment, and their lack of tools to measure that impact.

“One of the most important goals of the project is to create new planning tools that can give us an ‘early warning system’ about when and where future tourism growth is likely to cause serious problems,” Naya said.

An inventory and analysis of Hawai’i’s infrastructure and selected environmental assets is the first component of the project, while the second component is creation of a computer model of the state’s economy and potential environmental impacts of economic growth.

The third and final component is the socio-cultural and public input phase, underway with Knox.

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