Monday, June 28, 1999

Gift to fund
UH program on
tourism and

The goal is sustained tourism
without ecological harm

By Susan Kreifels


The University of Hawaii at Manoa has received a half-million dollars to teach how tourism and the environment can co-exist peacefully.

L.W. "Bill" Lane, former U.S. ambassador to Australia and promoter of environmental and cultural preservation and education, donated the money in honor of Chuck Gee, dean of UH-Manoa's School of Travel Industry Management.

Lane and Gee are longtime friends who have worked together in the Pacific Asia Travel Association.

Gee said $200,000 will be spent developing a new course for both undergraduates and graduate students on sustainable tourism and the environment. The money will also be used to bring public lecturers to Hawaii once or twice a year on the same topic.

The other $300,000 has been placed into an endowment to fund the programs long term.

Sustainability means maintaining an industry. Lecturers could include "strict environmentalists or people who have taken strategic measures to make sure tourism and the environment can coexist in harmony," Gee said.

Gee pointed to Costa Rica as a good example of the coexistence: a small area of rain forest is used for tourism, generating revenue for the government without harming the environment.

Gee said he would be looking for ideas and programs that can apply to Hawaii and the Asia-Pacific region.

He plans to form an advisory committee of environmental experts and business to plan the course. The School of Architecture has done considerable work in the area, and Gee said it will help design the course as well.

While he said Waikiki is already overdeveloped, the neighbor islands remain unspoiled. "While we must make sure they remain that way, we also recognize the need for industries that can support our economy," Gee said. "Tourism is our main bread and butter."

Lane is no stranger to helping the TIM school. His family used to own Sunset Magazine, which focuses on lifestyles in the western United States. The travel school's Sunset Reference Center was donated by Lane, along with scholarships over the years.

Lane wants his gift to educate "young leaders of tomorrow who must make critical decisions in the management of tourism enterprises and set policies affecting growth and sustainability strategy," according to a PATA news release.

The travel association has been a pioneer in exploring environmental issues as they relate to tourism, the release said.

PATA also helped give birth to the university's TIM school in the mid-1950s.

"I'm so delighted the money came to us," Gee said, frustrated that tourism has not grown in recent years. "We're so dependent on tourism.

"In my sunset years I've been very concerned about our ability to sustain it ... so we can coexist with the environment in a healthy state."

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