Wednesday, March 17, 1999

Isle experts:
Waikiki needs to
reach out to locals

The spokesmen say returning
'Hawaiianness' to the area would
help improve tourism

By Russ Lynch


Waikiki and Hawaii tourism as a whole can vastly improve if "Hawaiianness" is returned to Waikiki, according to local experts. They vary in their opinions of how to achieve that but they agree that Waikiki may die if something isn't done.

"When was the last time you told anyone that Waikiki is a great place?" architect Don Goo asked rhetorically at a meeting yesterday, sponsored by the Native Hawaiian Tourism & Hospitality Association and the Waikiki Improvement Association.

He recalled Travel Industry Management School Dean Chuck Gee's comments of the late 1980s that Waikiki was "mature" and only had one way to go, toward death, if it wasn't revitalized.

To do that, Waikiki has to become a local place once more, a place where Hawaii residents can afford to visit, to enjoy their own cultures and share them with tourists, said Goo, whose firm, Wimberly, Allison, Tong & Goo, helped design many of the existing improvements in Waikiki.

Among those improvements is the 20-acre Hilton Hawaiian Village complex.

"We need to make it easy for local people to get to Waikiki," Goo said, such as providing off-Waikiki parking areas and easy and cheap public transportation to get there.

Local events, similar to high-school fund-raiser carnivals and keiki hula contests, should be freely available in Waikiki and easy to get to, he said.

Do things like that and local people will come, commingle with the tourists and share other secrets of Hawaii, Goo said.

Hawaiiana expert George Kanahele listed what he called his "four Rs: recreating the original style of Waikiki, reaffirming Hawaii's role -- and that of Waikiki in particular -- as a host, restoring Waikiki's storied history of 1,000 years of human occupation and re-enchanting the place, with Hawaiian music, dance, arts and crafts.

"Frankly I don't think the people that market Waikiki today understand the history," Kanahele said.

Peter Schall, managing director of the Hilton Hawaiian Village where yesterday's meeting was held, told how encouraging employees to do their own entertaining, selling homemade crafts, running hula classes and so on has succeeded in bringing Hawaiianness to the property.

"I always believe that a hotel has got to be a center of the community," Schall said.

At the Hawaiian Village it works because tourists get to talk and share with the employees, he said.

He said the property is a "very, very dense development," but the presence of all the high-rise buildings is in the background, while the open space and landscaping create far more of an impression.

Mayor Jeremy Harris described the city's plans for Waikiki, which he said also are centered in providing a "Hawaiians sense of place."

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