Haas introduced the concept of “sustainable
tourism” to luncheon attendees. O’ahu residents
express increasing concern over rapid growth that shows no
signs of slowing in the near future. The sky is no longer the
limit, and as buildings continue to creep into the clouds,
people are left to wonder what’s next? Can Hawai‘i
endure continued growth without serious repercussions?
In the past, the HTA has promoted Hawai‘i to encourage
more visitors to come. Hawai‘i hosted more than seven million
visitors in 2004. Resources are stretched to capacity, so increasing
the volume of visitors is not only undesirable, it’s nearly
impossible. Though the HTA is implementing plans to slow the
growth in numbers of visitors, they have yet to introduce a cap
and aims to host 7.1 million visitors in 2005.
The HTA is now focusing on increasing the quality of visitors,
rather than the number. Instead of having more people, the goal
is to attract visitors who spend more money. Haas explained that
this approach does not mean that Hawai‘i will become the
exclusive playground of the rich and famous. Haas assured his
audience that there will still be affordable accommodations and
attractions for any budget, but the HTA aims to entice visitors
who will spend money to see and do the unique attractions of
the islands, rather than simply settling on a $1.50 beach mat
to lay idle for a week.
Haas asserted that Hawai‘i must reinvent its image to continue
to succeed in today’s competitive market. If a person wants
a tropical vacation, what would make them want to choose a pricey
vacation in Hawai‘i, as opposed to an economical vacation
in Jamaica? The HTA wants to focus on what makes Hawai‘i
unique, instead of stereotypical hula outfits and coconut drinks
in the sand.
Hawai‘i is also poised to play host to business meetings
and national seminars. However, efforts to market Hawai‘i
as a venue for serious business have been met with skepticism
due to Hawai‘i’s historical and current image as
a travel and leisure destination.
The HTA hopes to expand Hawai‘i’s image rather than
expand it’s zip code, to show people how diverse and unique
the islands truly are. With this approach, Hawai‘i’s
natural resources will be conserved and people of the world may
continue to enjoy all the islands have to offer.