Dancers from the Polynesian Cultural Center entertain visitors in Waikiki. A state tourism report recommends funding for programs to boost Native Hawaiian cultural experiences.

Tourism study
wants greater
focus on culture

A separate report
finds the notion that
visitor traffic exacerbates
crime may be misguided

A state sustainable tourism report says that some elements of the visitor industry have served to marginalize Native Hawaiians and distort their culture, and recommends state funding for programs to boost cultural experiences.

The report, part of a larger sustainable tourism project, also suggests the creation of a "cultural landscape" land classification that would include population density limits, historical preservation designations and design codes to protect designated areas.

The report recommends that the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the nonprofit private Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association each get a voting seat on the state Hawaii Tourism Authority, which is largely made up of tourism industry representatives.

The project, Planning for Sustainable Tourism in Hawaii, is an ongoing $1.2 million state effort to find specific impacts of tourism's growth on a broad range of aspects of the island lifestyle.

The project released two draft reports yesterday, one on impacts on Native Hawaiians, prepared by an advisory group, and another focused on Hawaii's general population, prepared by state consultant John M. Knox & Associates Inc.

The Native Hawaiian report says that tourism must be considered in the historical context of events that have pushed Hawaiians from positions of power in the islands.

"Tourism has had the further debilitating effect of distorting the culture through commercially driven presentations that lack cultural depth and dignity," the report said. "Our culture is further distorted by homogenized presentations that sandwich Hawaiian culture between layers of other Polynesian cultures so that it fails to be distinguishable as unique to the Hawaiian heritage."

"Hawaiians are the greatest hosts in the world. We don't need to be trained in how to treat guests and how to treat strangers," said Peter Apo, a co-author of the Native Hawaiian report. He said the group's intent is to help the tourism industry improve.

On a positive note, the report says there is a growing demand for genuine Native Hawaiian culture within the tourism industry. As "best practices," it cites care for ancestral burials in Waikiki and at Maui's Ritz-Carlton; the design of the city's Hanauma Bay Marine Education Center; and the Parker Ranch Tree Project, which has planted 800 indigenous trees on the Big Island.

A separate report on the impact of tourism on Hawaii's broader population dedicates a large volume to the link between tourism and crime. It notes that a previous state survey found 41 percent of local residents think tourism makes crime worse. However, an analysis of crime statistics from 1975 to 2001 more often shows the opposite effect -- that many types of crime declined at the same time tourism has grown, the report said.

Murder and burglary rates have decreased for all four counties, although there does appear to be a correlation between rape and tourism growth on Oahu and the Big Island, according to the report.

"The relationship between serious crime and tourism varies from place to place and time to time. It is a matter of local circumstances," the report said.

The report does not say that tourism makes crime better, but it suggests tourism helps the state's economy, easing the crime rate.

John M. Knox & Associates and Progressive Analytics Inc. are holding public meetings this month on every island to discuss the project, and plan to produce a final report and computer model early next year. An inventory of state's infrastructure and environmental resources was released last year.

The new draft reports are available online at

The project needs input on draft "goals and indicators" meant to monitor and manage tourism, said John Knox. "We kind of think this can be a guideline for sustainable tourism," he said.

The report on Native Hawaiian impacts is based on the observations of Davianna McGregor, associate professor at the University of Hawaii; Apo, director of the Hawaii Hospitality Institute; Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele, director of the Kanaka Maoli Research & Development Corp.; and Cherlyn Logan, human resources vice president for Hilton Hotels Western Region.


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