One Way To Do Tourism Better? Require Local Tour Guides - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Authors

Madden Kong

Madden Kong is a sophomore at Punahou School working on a project about addressing global sustainability issues in Hawaii.

Tate Takamiya

Tate Takamiya is a sophomore at Punahou School working on a project about addressing global sustainability issues in Hawaii.

A style more like Bhutan’s approach would significantly improve our relationship with tourists, our local economy and our environment.

As we know, Hawaii has a love-hate relationship with tourism.

On the one hand, tourism is the most significant part of Hawaii’s economy, according to Hawaii Public Radio, bringing in 23% of Hawaii’s income in 2020. On the other hand, it causes environmental degradation, overcrowding, and displacement of locals.

We propose a new style of sustainable tourism that Bhutan currently uses that focuses on sustainability, authenticity, and cultural preservation.

How is Hawaii doing with sustainable tourism?

Our current state of tourism has led to a significant divide between locals and tourists. This is not a sustainable situation, and it is essential that we change this so that we can make Hawaii’s tourism more sustainable.

The Kingdom of Bhutan uses a “high-value, low-impact” model to educate tourists about Bhutanese values and share unique experiences. One of the ways Bhutan tries to keep its environment preserved is by charging a fee directed at protecting the country. Bhutan recently changed its Sustainable Development Fee from $65 to $200.

A Buddha statue in Bhutan. Hawaii could benefit by using the country’s tourism model. (Wikimedia Commons/RKTKN/2017)

This money goes to quality infrastructure and other services for the tourism industry. It helps provide a genuine and authentic Bhutanese experience for tourists.

Another way Bhutan keeps its country sustainable is by requiring a local tour guide to lead tourists throughout their trip. This way, the tour guides cannot only watch over the tourists but also show the tourists what they want to show them and make a bond with the visitor.

We believe this simple gesture can help tourists create a stronger connection to this place, where they can gain more respect for Hawaii. We would introduce a new system where you can get a local tour guide to show a smaller group of tourists the more local places in Hawaii.

The local tour guides can show them places that local people might go to on a typical day. This way, the tour guides can show them how to preserve and protect the environment while also having a great time visiting Hawaii.

How will this affect Hawaii?

First, it would create a more significant and more profound understanding and appreciation for the islands. By limiting the number of tourists, we could focus on giving tourists a more accurate and authentic Hawaii experience.

This would educate tourists and hopefully make them see Hawaii in a different light, causing the barrier between locals and tourists to deteriorate. Having tourists enter through the “backdoor” of Hawaii, they can learn how to act and respect this place in both its life and culture.

Locals Know Best

Secondly, with this idea of sustainable tourism, it would create more economic opportunities for locals in Hawaii. Hiring local tour guides will help grow an underdeveloped niche market and allow us to balance the benefits of tourism with more people.

This is an essential part of sustainable tourism because, as we have seen in the past as benefits are mainly concentrated on big corporations and companies while letting the smaller ones suffer.

Thirdly, this would help preserve the beautiful environment in Hawaii because the local tour guides know best how to preserve the environment in their secret areas around the island and will pass on their knowledge to the tourists. This way, Hawaii’s environment will not get as trashed as it would right now, with no one telling tourists how they should act around nature in Hawaii.

A style more like Bhutan’s approach would significantly improve Hawaii’s relationship with tourists, Hawaii’s local economy, and the environment. Reshaping Hawaii’s tourism to make it more of an authentic experience will give tourists a better experience and a greater appreciation for Hawaii.

It’s time for us to reevaluate Hawaii’s approach to tourism.

What resources do we need?

Although following the Bhutan model is a great idea, it won’t happen overnight. It will require much effort from locals and tourists to focus more on sustainable tourism. We must train and educate tour guides to provide tourists with an authentic, genuine, and safe experience.

It’s time for us to reevaluate Hawaii’s approach to tourism. We have an excellent opportunity to learn from what Bhutan has done to make tourism more sustainable and authentic.

By doing this, we can rediscover and replenish “Hawaii’s soul” by preserving our environment, creating local economic opportunities, and improving our tourist-local relationship.

So let’s work together and create a style of sustainable tourism that we can all be proud of and keep Hawaii beautiful for generations to come.

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About the Authors

Madden Kong

Madden Kong is a sophomore at Punahou School working on a project about addressing global sustainability issues in Hawaii.

Tate Takamiya

Tate Takamiya is a sophomore at Punahou School working on a project about addressing global sustainability issues in Hawaii.

Latest Comments (0)

Hi everyone, What a refreshing idea to let our younger people express themselves. Thankyou Civil Beat. As a private tour guide I host small groups around the island according to their interests. Everywhere we go we feed back to the local community and authentic family businesses. We teach culture and respect of nature, and are able to give them a sense of place and of Hawaii’s people. Because we have no set itinerary I am also able to avoid any crowded places. Unfortunately the laws here are now forbidding visitors to see the island with guides. The entire coastline from Sandy’s, all of Makapuu, all of Waimanalo, all of Kailua, etc., the entire north shore, now makes it a crime to even pull over for a five minutes to see a beach and take a picture! On a recent tour I had a lifetime gardner from England who wanted to see Hoomaluhia Botanical Gardens. Hundreds of acres, uncrowded, yet illegal for tours. I had to say no. If you go and study these places in real time you will see that most of them are problem free. Yes there are a few hotspots that need management. But to close the entire island to local businesses and force people into rental cars is not an answer.

Greg · 5 days ago

23%? I think the numbers are skewed. Maybe 23% of the governments "Income", but tourism is the goose laying the golden eggs as far as the economy as a whole. There are, realistically, only 3 parts to Hawaii's economy: tourism, the military, and the businesses that serve the first two. Tourism provides the vast majority of jobs, if it falters, people aren't buying cars or homes, they aren't spending money in stores and restaurants. Those businesses close and the tax revenue from them, and their employees is lost. New establishments aren't built, the tradesmen that build them aren't able to make a living, and they leave. Etc, etc. Eventually tax revenue drops to the point that it can no longer support the bloated bureaucracy, people are laid off and are forced to leave. You can only tax the remaining people so much.Agriculture isn't going to save us, we can't compete in the global market, and we really don't have anything else to sell. We're too far from everything and everywhere. Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

Toomanychiefs · 6 days ago

Agreed - let’s start with the Ambassadors of Aloha in Waikiki - they usually are people who have been in HAwaii for 6 months or less……

Augustus · 6 days ago

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