In March, John De Fries, the CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, appeared as a guest speaker to tourism students at the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s College of Business and Economics. De Fries was curious about how Hawaii’s youngest tourism stakeholders and future leaders thought about the industry.
He spoke of the need to malama Hawaii and the kuleana of protecting Hawaii’s host culture and the natural resources that support life in the islands – critical areas, foundational to Hawaii’s branding and identity as a tourism destination.
De Fries’ focus on core Hawaiian values resonated with UHH students whose institution has the highest proportion of Native Hawaiian students of the University of Hawaii campuses. UHH also ranked as the most diverse university in America in 2020, according to the U.S. News & World Report.
De Fries shared fond memories of a thriving Waikiki with a healthy reef ecosystem that was once important fishing grounds for Honolulu communities. But since the 1960s, and after decades of tourism, the landscape has changed. By 2019 visitor arrivals in Hawaii exceeded 10.4 million and tourism accounted for 19.2% of all employment and 16.2% of the state’s gross domestic product.
The environmental and social impacts of tourism are many and are well documented. Overtourism, a recent global phenomenon characterized by increasing resident dissatisfaction with tourism due to overcrowding, has extended to Hawaii. Resident satisfaction…