Hawaii residents' views
often contradictory

Only 7 percent of Hawaii's population believes that, as a matter of policy, the local tourism industry should not be allowed to grow any more. Also, 58 percent of residents say the state needs more tourism jobs.

Yet, 58 percent of people don't want more hotels.

This contradiction in the general attitude of Hawaii residents toward tourism was illustrated yesterday in a new survey conducted for the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

The survey, done at a cost of just under $25,000 by Market Trends Pacific Inc. and John M. Knox & Associates Inc., found that locals' feelings toward tourism, the state's No. 1 industry, haven't changed much in the past few years.

Of the 1,643 respondents, 77 percent said tourism has brought more benefits than problems, while 40 percent feel tourism should be allowed to grow indefinitely, or at least until Hawaii finds another proven major industry. Some 48 percent support tourism growth with long-term limits, regardless of whether the state establishes another industry.

Similar tourism surveys were done in 1999 and 2001, though the 2001 results were not released at the time because of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The state also conducted a large survey of resident attitudes, with 3,900 respondents, in 1988.

One recent change is that the percentage of people who feel that tourism has a good effect on themselves and their families has slipped since 1988 to 50 percent of the population from 60 percent. Those who feel that tourism has no effect or a mixed good/bad effect has risen at the same time.

Also, the percentage of residents who don't want more hotels on their island has fallen from 72 percent in 1999.

The new survey was released yesterday at a committee meeting of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Tourism industry officials said they viewed the survey as good news. "I was surprised how positive it was," said Keith Vieira, Hawaii operations director for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.

Vieira, a board member of the tourism authority, said the industry needs to get the word out that local people support tourism. He suggested: "Big headlines: Public supports tourism."

David Carey, chief executive of Outrigger Enterprises Inc. and authority board member, said there was a fundamental disconnect between the way residents want more tourism jobs, but no more hotels.

Statewide, 28 percent of households have one or more workers in tourism.

Between 1965 and 1988, the number of visitor accommodation rooms in the state exploded 435 percent to 69,012 rooms from 12,903. There has been minimal growth since 1988, and total visitor rooms last year stood at 70,783, according to a recent survey by the state. Just more than half of Hawaii's visitor rooms are on Oahu, mainly in Waikiki.

Waikiki generated about 8 percent of the state's entire economy in 2002, and supported 10 percent of civilian jobs statewide, according to a recent state report.

Waikiki is also home to more than 19,000 people, and Oahu residents were almost evenly split over whether Waikiki should have more tourism activity. In contrast, 71 percent of Oahu residents said they had a strong feeling that Ko Olina should have more tourism.

On Maui, residents were more apt to oppose tourism growth on their island, including the resort areas of Lahaina, Kaanapali and Kihei. In 1965, Maui county had 1,231 visitor rooms. By 1990, the number of rooms skyrocketed to 17,869, and has remained flat since.

Resident perceptions of tourism also depend partly on individual prejudice, the survey found. Those who think about visitor industry jobs simply as hotel jobs tend to have a more negative image of tourism. Those people were more likely to think that tourism jobs don't have opportunity for advancement, and that tourism workers have poor hours.

Around the state, residents have become more favorable to having visitors spend their time and money all over their island, with 90 percent in support. Yet, 64 percent of residents want to keep future resorts close to existing hotel areas.

The survey was conducted by 30-minute telephone interviews between September 2002 and January 2003. The margin of error statewide is 3.7 percent.


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