What do Hawaii visitors want? A new survey shows most support ‘sustainable tourism’

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 5:27 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 23, 2021 at 5:29 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - More tourists are seeking authentic, cultural experiences when visiting the islands, according to a recent survey from the University of Hawaii.

More than 450 mainland visitors participated in the school’s 28-question online survey and more than 70% of respondents said they’d pay more to support sustainable tourism and local businesses.

That direction is in line with the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s latest campaign.

“Attracting the right visitor, a mindful visitor who comes here for a deeper, more enriching experience, connecting to people through place and culture is really the message that we’ve been putting out,” said HTA Chief Brand Officer Kalani Kaanaana.

“So to see it represented in the survey, I think is really encouraging.”

HTA launched “Malama Hawaii” in May, an initiative that moves away from activity promotion to focus on meaningful cultural experiences and connecting visitors with the community.

Officials say the rebranding is overdue in light of this summer’s incidents involving tourists harassing native wildlife.

“We’re not your playground,” Kaanaana explained. “We’re not your paradise, but actually this is a place where you can come, learn these things, and actually apply them when you go back home.”

Another key insight from the UH survey: 80% of those who answered are also would pay more for locally-sourced food.

That’s excellent news for family-owned farm Mari’s Gardens, which supplies hydroponically grown produce to the state’s restaurants and hotels.

“It’s usually much fresher and because it’s fresher by the time it reaches the end user, it’s just a higher quality,” said Mari’s Gardens manager Brendon Lau.

“That’s not something that is easily replicatable by something that you bring in.”

When the pandemic arrived in 2020, Mari’s lost 60% of its revenue in a matter of days and COVID highlighted just how inter-connected local businesses are.

So if the survey findings prove true, the benefits could be widespread.

“f we can kind of work around all of the hardships that COVID is causing and make it through, we’ll be able to have a pretty bright future in being in an industry that is a necessity,” Lau said.

Kaanaana is also eager to see the overall effects of sustainable tourism on the state’s economy if visitors indeed spend more for a lasting, meaningful experience.

“I think one of the powerful parts of tourism is that essentially Hawaii becomes a classroom and we export this ike, this knowledge,” Kaanaana said.

“We hopefully encourage visitors to go back to the places that they’re from and malama each other and the place that they live.”

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