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Saturday, March 20, 1999

How to woo
Japanese tourists

Art

By Gotaro Ogawa

Tapa

During the past year since my arrival in Hawaii, I have visited all the main islands, including Molokai and Lanai, so I feel somewhat comfortable about expressing my personal views on the topic of tourism. Besides, I know how much the people of this state are interested in trends in the visitor industry.

First, I want to point out how impressed I've been by the natural beauty of Hawaii, much of which has been well preserved and generally unaffected by environmental damage caused by human activities. I find each island has different things to offer, but I know that it will take more than natural beauty and ideal climate to bring in more tourists over the coming years.

I'm not sure whether large-scale redevelopment of Waikiki is economically feasible. However, Oahu certainly needs more modern resort hotels. More properties can probably be built outside of Waikiki without causing strain on the daily living of local residents.

Ko Olina already has its basic infrastructure completed. Couldn't the state or city encourage hotel building there, by offering a tax incentive to speed up development?

How about the North Shore or Makaha? Development in these areas would greatly relieve the need for more employment opportunities there.

I would like to see more sightseeing areas and better facilities made available at existing sites. Hawaii is such a unique resource for the visitor industry, with all types of activities related to nature and natural resources.

Yet there seems to be room for further diversification. We have World War II memorials, the Hawaiian culture, the rich history of plantation life, etc. These things would be of great interest to students in Japan who could visit Hawaii as part of their regular school excursions. Facilities could be built and personnel employed to accommodate such groups.

Also, sports training camps -- such as for baseball and golf -- could be created and promoted. This would increase the number of tourists coming to Hawaii, and would help the industry during its slowest season between January and March.

In view of the huge number of college baseball or golf teams in Japan, training camps in the warm paradise of Hawaii during the winter off-season period in Japan would create a big market, provided that a reasonable pricing system can be worked out.

Small improvements may also help. It would be nice to have more shower facilities at many beaches along with more parking spaces. Coin-operated lockers at popular beaches would ease worries about theft.

More Japanese are riding TheBus, but the only bus guide they carry is one published in Japan. There are no signs at bus stops showing the routes or the time schedule in Japanese. I heard a sad tale from a Japanese visitor who spent three hours getting to the consulate office from Waikiki via bus, because she twice failed to get off at the correct stop.

Lastly, because I have lived for almost one year in Hawaii, I qualify for the kamaaina rate at many golf courses. I appreciate this very much.

The problem I have with the privilege is that I have a hard time collecting on a $2 Nassau bet from my accompanying visitor from Japan, since he paid about $100 while I paid only $40. How can we have a fair bet after he paid more than twice as much as I did?

Many Japanese tourists wish to play golf a number of times during their stay in Hawaii. But, with the decline of the green fees in Japan, they complain about how expensive it still is to play in Hawaii.

Isn't it about time to adjust the non-kamaaina rates so that everyone can enjoy what this wonderful state has to offer?



Gotaro Ogawa is consul general of Japan in Hawaii.




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