According to poll results released Feb. 12, a substantial majority of Hawaii residents believe the visitor industry has brought more benefits than problems to their home state.
Commissioned by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, and conducted Aug. 27 through Sept. 20 last year by OmniTrak Group Inc., the survey consisted of phone interviews with 1,650 residents on Hawaii's main islands.
It found that 78% of those questioned viewed the tourism industry favorably. That figure was up 7% from a similar survey conducted in 2007, a year during which Hawaii's visitor industry enjoyed record earnings.
The survey also found that 49% of those questioned believed "their island of residence is being run for tourists at the expense of local residents," down from the 55% who said they felt that way in 2007.
"These results are encouraging, because Hawaii's visitor industry relies on support from residents," said Mike McCartney, the HTA's president and CEO, in a statement. "Last year was challenging for all of us, and with tourism accounting for nearly 17% of our state's economy and 151,000 jobs, it is critical that we continue to work together as a community for the benefit of everyone in the state."
Many survey respondents, however, made it clear that they were concerned about the tourism industry's efforts regarding the preservation of the Hawaiian language and culture, natural resources and resolving community-related problems.
Fifty-nine percent of the respondents who identified themselves as Hawaiian said they were dissatisfied with industry efforts to help preserve Hawaiian language and culture. And 52% of all those questioned said they were unaware of tourism industry efforts to help preserve Hawaii's natural resources.
"We know we still have areas that we need to work on as an industry," McCartney said. "At HTA, we are focused on driving demand to travel to Hawaii, but we also understand our responsibility to protect Hawaii's natural resources and perpetuate our host culture."
According to the survey results, participants living on Oahu were "least likely to see tourism as primarily responsible for negative impacts," while residents living on Maui and Kauai "feel strongly that tourism worsens traffic and overdevelopment, and that tourists rather than local people are the priority."
McCartney said the HTA is scheduled to spend $1.6 million on initiatives designed to increase respect for and the preservation of Hawaiian culture and language, including annual events planned for this spring and early summer like the Na Hoku O Hawaii Music Festival and the Big Island's Merrie Monarch Festival.
For complete access to the survey results, visit www.hawaiitourismauthority.org.