Results gauge sentiment on tourism

The Hawaii Tourism Authority, the state’s tourism agency, has released the results of a report prepared by Market Trends Pacific and John M. Knox and Associates entitled “2005 Survey of Residents Sentiments on Tourism in Hawaii.”

The results were reported in a press release.

The report marks the responses in a regular series of telephone surveys carried out for the HTA, that is used to measure resident feeling about ongoing issues in the visitor industry including, but not limited to, growth, quality of life issues, job quality and community values.

Conducted in late 2005, the most recent survey polled 1,350 residents statewide. Questions included the following topics:

• Residents’ core attitudes and beliefs on tourism

• Perceived impact of tourism and the importance of those impacts

• Opinions on policy issues related to tourism and the visitor industry

• Attitudes toward visitor industry jobs

• Views on tax incentives for building new hotels and renovating existing hotels

• The importance of bed-and-breakfast and vacation rentals in the visitor industry.

The report unveiled that many core attitudinal items have remained highly stable over the last 17 years. Analysis shows consistency in several areas, including 68 percent to 77 percent of participants who agree that benefits of tourism exceed problems associated with it; 78 percent to 85 eprcent who believe that the economy is too dependent on tourism; and the approximately 70 percent who feel there should be no more hotel development.

The report also noted a few long-term trends, including the declining belief that tourism has been “mostly good for you and your family,” although the shift has been more to perceptions of “mixed” than to “mostly bad” impacts.

The survey found widespread appreciation of positive economic impacts but more questions about social and environmental impacts. For the first time, a definite majority has agreed that “this island is being run for tourists at the expense of local people.”

Because past surveys have shown positive feelings towards visitors, the analysis suggests this agreement may reflect frustration over the failure of the infrastructure to keep pace with growth.

“The economic success that has been realized over the last two years has brought forth a variety of issues related to the impacts of the visitor industry,” said Rex Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the HTA, in the release.

“These impacts affect our resources, infrastructure and communities and underscore the need for all of us to be focused on creating a sustainable future for Hawai‘i tourism that emphasizes preservation and enhancement of Hawai‘i’s natural and cultural assets and communities while maximizing economic benefits,” Johnson said in the release.

That future is envisioned in the Hawaii Tourism Strategic Plan: 2005-2015, a 10-year plan that was developed with assistance and input from stakeholders throughout the state. “The plan is a blueprint of strategic directions, goals and partners for achieving a shared vision that makes Hawai`i special for our residents and visitors alike,” Johnson said in the release.

Additional key points detailed in the report include:

• Mixed feelings about the “importance” of bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals — but strong agreement that vacation rentals should only be permitted where nearby residents welcome them.

• Solid residents’ support for government expenditure to improve the tourism product (parks, scenic attractions, festivals, etc.)

• Support for the use of tax revenue generated from tourism to support the enviornment.

• Relatively good ratings for the visitor industry on providing jobs, making local residents feel welcome at resorts, building attractive facilities, and giving visitors a good sense of Hawai‘i’s history and people.

• Poorer ratings for the visitor industry on taking a leadership role in solving community problems, protecting the environment and conserving natural resources.

• Good marks for local government on marketing and advertising the various islands and on promoting festivals and cultural activities.

“Each year, the HTA supports programs that help to enrich the visitors’ experience in Hawai‘i while retaining our residents’ quality of life and local lifestyle,” said Johnson, in the release.

The report is available for download at HTA’s Web site: www.hawaii.gov/tourism.

The HTA was created in 1998 to ensure a successful visitor industry well into the future. Its mission is to strategically manage the growth of Hawai‘i’s visitor industry in a manner consistent with its economic goal, cultural values, preservation of natural resources, and communtity interests.

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