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View Point

By Laura Crites

Saturday, May 20, 2000

Tourism that’s
good for you

FOR nearly a decade, leaders and visionaries in Hawaii have talked about the potential for creating Hawaii as a world-class wellness destination.

The initial approach was driven by a decline in visitors from Japan. It focused on attracting wealthy Japanese to Hawaii for Western-based medical treatments.

The thinking at the time was that, regardless of the quality and level of technological advancement of our medical establishments, what we have was surely better than what was available in Japan.

The idea was abandoned as market research revealed the premise was not viable.

Yet, the idea has persisted that Hawaii does have something unique to offer those who are seeking health and wellness.

In 1998, the University of Hawaii produced a study regarding this potential, which was picked up by the Hawaii Tourism Authority and inserted into its strategic plan for the visitor industry.

This vision of health and wellness reaches far beyond medical treatment. The UH study advocated "developing creative tour packages that incorporate outdoor activities, self-healing and health treatments, Hawaiian culture and educational programs."

Because of the predominance of women as both providers of health and wellness products and services and as potential customers, the Hawaii Women's Business Center (HWBC) is taking the lead in moving this vision forward.

At a conference scheduled for May 22-23 at the Sheraton Waikiki, HWBC is bringing together the groups, individuals and businesses that can play a role in transforming Hawaii into a "wellness destination."

HWBC is a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration and is also partnering with the Hawaii Ecotourism Association, Five Mountain Medical Community and Kauai Association for the Healing Arts in producing this conference. Our vision is that Hawaii will be the international wellness destination.

Examples of the types of businesses that can and should expand their vision to include the health and wellness for visitors to Hawaii could include:

Bullet A counselor who specializes in John Grey couples communication seminars. Who better to approach than couples visiting Hawaii?

Bullet A writer who has recently published a book about the magic of Hawaii, who could guide people to a greater awareness of themselves and their potential through writing. She could meet a Hawaii visitor at a quiet place on the beach or in the mountains, where the beauty and spiritual energy draws out long-sought-after life answers.

Bullet A caterer who offers individualized healthy gourmet meals and could deliver these meals to a bed-and-breakfast for visitors who have special dietary needs.

ECOTOURISM has much to offer health and wellness. A tour operator could combine a mountain hike with a vision quest experience. The visitor would experience "fitness" on all levels.

We envision hotels with a wellness concierge to guide visitors to health and wellness experiences, with in-room TV channels showing health and wellness options around the state.

We imagine travel writers, tour operators and travel agencies focusing on Hawaii as the world wellness destination.

The market for a health and wellness visitor industry is huge and untapped. We believe there are thousands of people in Hawaii who can participate in creating Hawaii as a "wellness destination."

For information on the Health and Wellness Tourism Conference, visit our Web site at or call 522-8136.

Laura Crites is executive director of the
Hawaii Women's Business Center.

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