Finding balance in Kauai Tourism Strategic Plan

While sitting in traffic traveling to Kapaa from Wailua, I lost my balance. I lost it in my car in a line of many other drivers trying to traverse the intricacies of stop-and-go pedal usage through the ever-bustling Moku of Puna and on the highway from the ahupuaa of Olohena to Waipouli and finally Kapaa.

I had come to avoid this route due to growing traffic concerns but it was winter break and my daughter was home from college. We planned on shopping in Old Kapaa Town to support the local businesses and were joined by every other student home or out on break with their cars and what felt like 30,000 visitors all trying to get through Kapaa at the same time.

Balance is such a necessity in life and especially a way of life on a little island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We must get along with each other and share resources while always being mindful of each other’s needs. I know that it is the same for businesses trying to make it here on Kauai as well. How do you make money and survive without destroying the essence of what you represent?

This month, the Kauai Tourism Strategic Plan Update will be released. This update has been in the making since last year as stakeholders met to discuss where we are with the visitor industry and where we are not. I am very pleased to be able to report that much of, if not most of, the discussion was on our capacity issues with the visitor industry.

This team of very dedicated professionals are also longtime residents and partners in our community. They have families, friends, pet projects that they volunteer for and they have also “traversed the highway of unbalance.” It did not go unnoticed that the growth of our island population along with the growth of our daily visitor count has put often painful pressure on our island lives, resources and facilities. This group and the larger stakeholders that met to review the update later has our island’s people, resources and lifestyle held up as the most important focus to manage the best “end game” for all.

The plan promotes the concept of economic, social and environmental balance. The plan also recognizes that a healthy visitor industry and a population that enjoys a good quality of life are inextricably linked. An example is that it is not just DOT’s job to find solutions for our traffic issues, it’s all of our kuleana to try to change our ways and sometimes rethink our needs.

Top priorities for mass movement of support are traffic management systems; career preparation; lifting the cap on the TAT; advocating for completion of essential infrastructure improvements; two-way communication between residents, Native Hawaiians and the visitor industry; awareness of our host culture by the visitor industry and residents; adequate funding and staffing for capital improvements; support for development of regulations and the administrative structure as it pertains to homestays and IVU’s; supporting Kauai products and support of community driven programs that reinforce our sense of place.

In the next couple of months, action plans and taking action for priorities will begin and the core committee will be reaching out to partners and the community for support. We welcome all to review the plan and join in the effort to find that ever-elusive sense of balance that we are all striving for.

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Nalani Brun is program administrative officer/tourism specialist, Office of Economic Development, County of Kauai. She can be reached at nbrun@kauai.gov.

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