Global tourism leaders look at balancing surging industry with preserving natural resources

Global tourism leaders look at balancing surging industry with preserving natural resources
Updated: Sep. 19, 2017 at 10:24 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's a time of plenty for the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

After five years of record highs, visitor spending continues to surge.

In the first seven months of 2017, the HTA reported travelers spent $9.95 billion, up 8.9% from July 2016.

Visitor arrivals are up 4.7% to 5.5 million visitors and the state tax revenue generated by tourism stands at $1.16 billion, which is $94.8 million over last year.

"People want to come to Hawaii, " said Geroge Szigeti, President and CEO of Hawaii Tourism Authority.

But Annette Kaohelaulii with Hawaii Ecotourism Association says it's just too much.

"They need to realize the community is really important," Kaohelaulii said. "People aren't coming to Disneyland, they're not coming to an attraction, they're coming to a real place where real people live."

"It isn't just about more more more," Sue Kanoho with Kauai Visitors Bureau said. "I know some people think that, but I think they don't understand there's a lot of other areas HTA supports for giving back to the islands."

Last year, HTA said it gave more than $3 million to 128 programs that help perpetuate Hawaiian culture and preserve natural resources.

But as tourism executives from around the world gather in Hawaii for the 2017 Global Tourism Summit, the question of capacity is a delicate issue.

"How do you do a study today about the capacity number?" asked Szigeti. "We do have room in Hawaii especially on some of the neighbor islands."

The HTA is trying to send more tourists to other islands and has been trying to attract high-end visitors who'll spend more while leaving less of a footprint.

But Szigeti says Hawaii's hotels also need to fill rooms to keep the industry humming.

"It's going to be a challenge going forward I mean, we're a very popular place right now," said Szigeti. "We're asking really for all of us to come together and figure out what the solutions are."

Get more information on the 2017 Global Tourism Summit here.

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