Plan aims to strengthen relations between tourism, community

WAILUA — Tourism boosts Kauai’s economy, but at a cost, said Wailua Homesteads resident Tom Godbey.

“We’re very concerned overdevelopment threatens to ruin the Hawaiian culture,” Tom said. “It’s so overdeveloped now. There’s so many tourists’ cars you can’t even get in your own driveway up in the North Shore. And we used to love driving up there because it’s so beautiful but lately, the traffic is just terrible.”

Godbey and his wife Elsie’s were among a small crowd at Friday’s meeting on Kauai’s Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-2018 at the Hilton Garden Inn.

The Hawaiian Cultural Awareness subcommittee is hoping to create a dialogue between industry and community to address concerns about tourism’s impact.

Dirk Soma, subcommittee chair, said the objective of the plan is to learn how tourism and community can work together.

The subcommittee sent out a survey to 40 organizations. According to the results, 81 percent of the organizations said the integration of Hawaiian culture into operations was important (25 percent) or very important (56 percent).

Eighty-one percent said the integration of history is necessary, while 42 percent of survey takers recognized the importance of the Hawaiian language.

“There needs to be a revival and appreciation for Hawaiian culture,” Godbey said. “There needs to be a reversal now so we can all appreciate their culture.”

In response to those results, Soma and the subcommittee conducted a community survey, targeting the Native Hawaiian community. Forty-six percent said the pros of the tourism industry outweigh the cons, while 18 percent said the opposite. Thirty-six percent, were undecided.

“We see that the community is very tied to the industry,” Soma said. “If you look at how important Hawaiian culture and history are, you’re going to see the community say that is very much so.”

Kalani Ka‘ana‘ana, director of Hawaiian Cultural Affairs, said he and the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s mission is to support the counties and listen to what people have to say.

“We want to make sure that the community around Kauai understands what’s going on around here,” Ka‘ana‘ana said. “It’s incredibly important for us to strengthen our relationships with the community on Kauai, and all counties across the state.”

When Elsie talked about traveling to the North Shore and experiencing the reality of the growing tourism industry, she didn’t know what to make of it. Originally from Hanapepe, Elsie said while tourism benefits the economy, it also tarnishes what makes Hawaii so appealing in the first place.

“I know that they’re trying to turn things around in Hanapepe, but at the same time, I want to keep Hanapepe historic,” she said. “We’re just interested in what’s going on in the island. I watch all these council meetings and I see especially in Hanalei that it’s overrun by tourists. I can understand the residents’ complaints up there.”

The objective of Friday’s meeting was for locals to voice their concerns, which Ka‘ana‘ana said is a big step in uniting industry and community.

“Anytime we’re talking about tourism, our state’s largest industry, it’s important to listen to the community and to listen about concerns, needs and successes,” he said. “It’s about making sure that we’re all connected.”

Two more subcommittee meetings will take place this morning at Waimea Plantation Cottages from 9 to 11 a.m. and at Kauai Community College’s Office of Continuing Education and Training building from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. The public is welcome.

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