How To Better Manage Hawaii’s Tourism Hotspots - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Peter Adler

Peter Adler is a planner and mediator with a particular focus on issues that involve challenging technical and public policy challenges.

There is no perfect approach to managing large numbers of people in small places, but there are successes.

Preoccupations with tourism shift. At the moment, they are moving into discussions about regenerative tourism and bills for new tourism “governance” at the Legislature.

This may be driven in part by debates over “marketing” and “management” among tourism experts and the more immediate high stakes contractual dispute between the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement and the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.

Given the inescapable reality of the hospitality industry in our economy, the state’s assigned roles and responsibilities are important discussions. But there are other matters.

Tourist carrying capacity and destination management issues linger. Gross state carrying capacity numbers (8 million? 10 million? 12 million?) are not that helpful.

Big numbers generate a lot of buzz but they obscure important detail. The carrying capacity concept is best used when applied at ground level because, that’s where the rubber meets the road and that’s where communities tend to experience potholes, speed bumps and traffic jams on the tourism road.

Applied to specific sites, numbers are hugely important and a perfect focus for smart engagement and careful planning.

The HTA has destination management plans for all four counties.

To its credit, the Hawaii Tourism Authority undertook broad consultations with island-based Steering Committees and produced Destination Mapping Action Plans (“DMAPS”) for each county to be implemented from 2021 to 2024. The idea was to reset tourism in each county.

Beyond their situational analyses, forecasts, and guidance, the DMAPs identified specific hotspots on each island that needed attention, many of them involving wider community pushback. Flashpoint examples, to name just a few, were Kailua Beach and Town on Oahu, Moomomi Beach on Molokai, and Waipio Valley on Hawaii island.

There is no single, perfect approach to managing large numbers of people in small places but there are successes.

Online reservations at Hanauma Bay, for parking at Haena State Park, and for trail reservations at Kalalau help a lot and show inventive applications of technologies but the more sprawling an issue is in its impacts, the greater the need for well-informed local problem solving. Outside expertise coupled with local knowledge and wisdom can produce less sub-optimum and more acceptable outcomes.

One enabling aspect of achieving better “balancing” arrangements can happen before or when communities reach a tipping point and get angry. Early and constructive negotiations with communities and neighborhoods around hotspots can be developed when there is good leadership from public, private, and civic sector representatives empowered to analyze options and construct solutions.

However, there is a fine old proverb that says, “Never test the depth of the stream with both feet.” The right kind of initial working group to design approaches could potentially create the model and pave the way for pilot projects through four specific products:

  • A set of agreed upon principles for the practical management of future encounters between communities, industry, hospitality unions, and government when over-tourism is at issue;
  • a procedural template with a set of corresponding best practices that negotiators can use to set up and help guide consultations;
  • a checklist for leaders in all four sectors on how to prepare for organized discussions, productively talk with respect and integrity around stubborn issues, and produce actual performance results; and
  • a roadmap for creating an actual test in a community or neighborhood.

Productive discussions of this sort require legitimacy and credibility. If there is a will to do so by HTA and its future subcontractors, a working group made up of community, government, industry, and hospitality union representatives can be assembled to review community hot spots, explore the ideas, identify drivers and constraints, and report back to HTA, the Legislature, and all others interested in taming the problem of over-tourism and community impacts and benefits.

“The way out,” said Robert Frost, “is always through.”

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About the Author

Peter Adler

Peter Adler is a planner and mediator with a particular focus on issues that involve challenging technical and public policy challenges.

Latest Comments (0)

You've got multi-billion dollar industries who are "making bank" off of jamming as many people into planes, hotels, roads, beaches, trails, reefs, swimming holes and on and on. Numbers are hugely important, and not just for specific sites.

Fred_Garvin · 6 months ago

Something that would help is to stop busing tourists somewhere, dropping them off & maxing out the place. Case in point: Halona Blow hole/ cockroach cove- it has become Waikiki part 2. It is 'standing room only' down there on the weekend now. The small parking lot used to at least help keep the numbers down there. Not anymore- trolleys from Waikiki are constantly busing them in and dropping them off. Thank you, tourism industry vultures. It's getting near-impossible to find anywhere to escape anymore.

CSH · 6 months ago

I am a 50+ year resident of Hawaii. I love it here. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I’ve had tourist friends of mine from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South America and (yes) the mainland come and visit me and Hawaii. All have marveled at the natural beauty that abounds here. What they don’t understand is the amount of trash that is left in some of these remote ares we’ve gone to. The abandoned cars, mattresses, sofas, tables, junk,etc. nor the unbelievable thievery that goes on at many of the more accessible and "touristy " places they have gone to on their own. Neither can I…While Waikiki will get the pilau tourist that disregards trash cans and their own opala, I’ve yet to see any tourist dump rubbish cans, rummage through it and just walk away. Nor, destroy the toilets. Or the roving gangs that will prey on anyone that looks "non-local" , sigh. I try to explain it away and make it a priority to clean up after ourselves and pick up more at anywhere I go or take them but feel a bit overwhelmed at times. As one of my Aussie friends says "it ain’t the bloody tourist, mate. You need to clean up locally first" . That is a bit harsh and know many local folks feel the same way.

blanez · 7 months ago

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