Thursday, May 27, 1999

seek input in
tourism planning

They claim that HTA
is ignoring the needs
of the community

By Russ Lynch


The Hawaii Tourism Authority isn't paying attention to community needs in developing a strategy and instead is pushing a tourism industry agenda, says a group of community and environmental organizations.

The group held a press conference outside the International Market Place in Waikiki yesterday to voice its concerns.

"There's this fairly narrow group of tourism executives who can spend $60 million a year on projects they think will enhance tourism," Ira Rohter, a spokesman for the protesters, said after the meeting.

The widespread alliance of residents, working through the Hawaiian Environmental Coalition and the Community Revitalization Coalition, sent letters yesterday to HTA officials John Reed, chairman, and Robert Fishman, chief executive officer.

"Many groups comprising our two coalitions are gravely concerned that the development of a strategic plan for tourism is being directed by 13 non-publicly-elected, industry-connected HTA board members," the letters said.

Fishman said today that he thinks the group's comments were "a little premature" in that the HTA board is doing a lot to include community input in its decision making. "I am one of those who are very sensitive to bridging the nonvisitor-industry concerns," he said.

The HTA board has met every week and always opened itself up for comment and the board itself includes one member, Kalowena Komeiji, who was specifically appointed to represent the general public, Fishman said.

Rohter, author of "A Green Hawaii: Sourcebook for Development Alternatives" and a teacher of political ecology and development at the University of Hawaii, said the groups want wide community participation in the tourism planning process.

They also want the HTA board broadened to include as many community representatives, including native Hawaiians, as there are travel industry members.

"Tourism is too important to leave it up to people who mostly represent Waikiki," Rohter said.


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