Sustainable Tourism — The People
Hawaii has always been considered a “major player” when it comes to the travel and tourism industry. The current trend toward sustainable tourism is something that Hawaii has done intuitively all along, and we are now on the cusp of being an industry leader for this popular concept.
Sustainable tourism lessens the impact on both the environment and local culture, while creating a more enjoyable and meaningful visitor experience.
Sustainable tourism also goes a step further and strives to provide a rewarding and enhancing lifestyle for the local population. The concept is simply to protect those environmental and cultural assets that make a place desirable to visit in the first place, while also learning from and benefitting the people of the indigenous host culture.
The international visitor industry is growing at up to 6 percent annually, and travelers are getting more discriminating on where they go and what they wish to experience. Increasingly, people want to discover and learn versus engaging in a passive experience. They are looking for a genuine life-changing connection to a place which leads to first time visitors being repeat visitors.
The good news for Hawaii is that is what our Islands have had going for them all along. Hawaii offers many things that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. First and foremost is our people. When people are asked to recount the high point of their visit to Hawaii, it is the warmth and genuine kindness of our people that dominate the surveys.
Yes, they remember their first tentative attempts to surf at Waikiki, but mostly they remember the personality of their friendly local instructor. They still have their souvenir Hawaiian flute, but the more important thing is their memory of having an engaging, patient Hawaiian teach them how to finally coax a single note out of it. It’s the interaction and sharing of a unique culture by people who live it that creates a sustainable experience for all concerned. One that will be remembered, recommended and repeated.
Hawaii has always been a magnet for diverse people.
We have one of the most complex ethnic blends on the planet, and our people and culture have produced a unique and exotic contemporary hybrid. Our world-renowned Pacific Rim cuisine is an example of such creative interaction and has a growing reputation of being a bastion for world class chefs and restaurants. Back in the ’90s, as director of DBEDT with HVB, we developed this tourism marketing campaign known as Aloha on Tour. It was all about making visitors realize that we are more than the five S’s – sun, sand, sea, surf and spirit of aloha. Just as our people are blends of diverse ethnicities, our food, our music, our festivals and our art all represent the best of this cultural fusion. There is nowhere else on the planet you can experience this dynamic fusion of old and new, of eastern and western, of kama’aina and malihini.
What a wonderful place to visit Hawaii has become. One day a visitor can experience and even be taught the cultural purity of a traditional hula performed by one of our talented halau, and the next watch Hawaii’s local community embrace a gift from the Buddhist culture with the emotional lantern floating ceremony off Magic Island. Both are authentic experiences of contemporary Hawaii.
Preservation of the essence of the indigenous culture is one of the keys to sustainable tourism, but so is the promotion of our unique living cultural experiences as we continue to define our concept and definition of sustainable tourism.
(Next week we will examine sustainable tourism from a sense of place point of view.)
MUFI’S VISITOR HEROES
Position: Banquet Manager
Location: Sheraton Waikiki
Sheraton Waikiki banquet manager Kelly Zane lives and breathes hospitality every day. It’s why he was honored as a manager of the year at the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association’s Na Po’e Pa’ahana awards program in January.
Kelly’s knowledge of Hawaiian culture and his ability to apply its values to the workplace have made him an invaluable leader at the hotel. He keeps an open door for his industrious banquet team; has provided counsel and support for troubled employees, and fosters a sense of po’e, or community, among his staff. He tells new workers, “You’re not a banquet worker, you’re a hospitality worker. Make service a part of you, and guests will know that you are sincere.”
No detail escapes Kelly. He makes every effort to learn of a client’s personal preferences. During his free time, Kelly volunteers in his Waimanalo neighborhood, cleaning Kalanianaole Highway and taking part in community activities. He says, “I’ll never stop helping people. That’s where the joy in life is.”