Survey: Residents’ views on tourism are improving, but tensions remain

"We just want to make sure that visitors are able to come and see our home and return safely without causing too much nuisance to our community."
Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 6:54 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2023 at 10:55 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After a major plunge during the pandemic, a new survey suggests Hawaii residents’ views on tourists are improving amid widening efforts to mitigate the impact of the state’s no. 1 economic driver.

Residents begged for better tourism management after Hawaii was inundated with tourists when the COVID-19 shutdowns were lifted. The Hawaii Tourism Authority said Wednesday it is making progress toward that plea.

“It’s a good indication that the tide is turning,” said HTA President and CEO John De Fries.

“It’s also an immense reminder of the amount of work that lays ahead for us to continue to earn the confidence and trust of our local residents.”

According to the state’s newest Resident Sentiment Survey:

  • 44% of residents agreed that tourism is being better managed;
  • 57% said tourism has brought more benefits than problems;
  • and 67% of residents have a favorable opinion of tourism as an industry in Hawaii.

The survey said the top three drivers of these sentiments are job opportunities, support of local businesses, and more shopping, dining, and entertainment options.

The survey also stated that 67% agreed their island is being run for tourists at the expense of local people.

The survey indicated improvement opportunities include “addressing issues such as overcrowding, environmental damage, and no respect for culture/tradition/’āina.”

Some residents believe the visitor industry still has work to do.

“We just want to make sure that visitors are able to come and see our home and return safely without causing too much nuisance to our community,” said Hana Highway Regulation Administrator Napua Hueu.

“I do believe that tourism is a favorable industry for Hawaii. We just need to do a better job at managing the impacts of the tourism and doing more preventative care versus damage control,” Hueu said.

The state recently required reservations and parking fees for visitors at popular local destinations.

The governor is also proposing a new “green fee” for visitors who use beaches, trails, and key landmarks.

HTA vows to do more.

“We’re still working. We’re not there yet. We’re not going to rest on our laurels about being at a good point; we want to do even better,” said HTA Chief Administrative Officer Daniel Naho’opii.

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