Creating Sustainable Tourism

Hawai’i is paradise. Those of us who work in the travel and tourism industry, get to present the beauty of Hawai’i to our visitors and share a daily reaffirmation of what we really have.

The individual islands all offer unique experiences and sights seen nowhere else on the planet. Hawai’i ranges from isolated and pristine beaches and forests to the dynamic cultural fusion of the cosmopolitan city of Honolulu.

Sustainable tourism is designed to be compatible with, and to present as low an impact as possible, on the environment and local culture.

Often mistaken for ecotourism, sustainable tourism is much more complex a proposition. It means inviting the visitor to experience the local culture and to respect the environment the same way as those of us who live here.

While eco-tourism is a component of sustainable tourism, it is not the only part.

A visitor to Hawai’i would be thrilled by a simple hike along the trails of Kaua’i’s Na Pali Coast, and such an experience leaves the natural environment with a minimal impact.

Swimming in the ocean off of Oahu’s Chun’s Reef and catching a glimpse of a green sea turtle also represents the kind of benign interaction with our spectacular natural environment.

In the case where visitor traffic has negatively impacted the ecosystem, we have taken intelligent and effective steps to manage our assets.

One good example is Hanauma Bay. I focused and worked hard as the Planning Committee chairman of the City Council and mayor with the Friends of Hanauma Bay to help the preserve become a model for how to strike a balance between allowing visitor access while protecting the natural ecology.

Those who want to experience the nature preserve must be prepared and educated about how to be responsible visitors to this wonderful natural resource. Numbers are limited, and the entire bay closes one day a week so that it can “recover” from the visitor traffic.

Out-of-state guests are asked to pay for entry, with the money dedicated to the preservation maintenance and education programs of Hanauma Bay.

The end result is that this vital attraction will be preserved and sustained for future generations for both visitors and local residents and our model has been studied by other destinations in the world, such as China.

Waikiki has been a world-class visitor attraction since the 1920s. Waikiki has changed dramatically since the old days, but remains a showplace for the modern Hawaiian experience. Even with the contemporary urban design and high-rise buildings, Hawai’i’s aloha spirit continues to provide a lasting impact on our visitors.

Renovations at Beachwalk and Lewers and the replenishment of sand at our popular beaches have continued the process of improving Waikiki’s environment.

Chinatown also has experienced a number of positive changes through the years.

Mayors Fasi, Harris and yours truly all made the revival of Honolulu’s historic Chinatown one of our economic development priorities, and it has blossomed with vibrant nightlife and a plethora of popular art galleries and restaurants.

Jason KawashibaraYes, the environment is not just our remote, undeveloped, scenic open spaces; it is also the manmade urban environments that reflect our history and culture. This is the balance we want to maintain to ensure that Hawaii will always remain a special place.

Sustainable tourism is also indeed a balance of preserving our cultural roots while at the same time encouraging our own contemporary cultural fusion to evolve.

The lesson here is if we focus on what makes Hawai’i the best place in the world to live, it will also remain one of the best places in the world to visit.


Jason Kawashibara

Position: Security Officer
Location: Kaua’i Marriott Resort

Kaua’i Marriott Resort security officer Jason Kashiwabara does his job with a smile. His managers believe that smile is a rare gift that reflects his “can-do” spirit.

Jason never hesitates to offer his assistance to guests and co-workers alike, and can be counted on to get any job done. He is always on time for work and never hesitates to stay overtime to complete a task. He has worn several hats since joining Kaua’i Marriott Resort, including banquet houseman and audio-visual technician. Nowadays, Jason can be found greeting or helping guests and responding to incidents, demonstrating the aloha spirit every day on the job.

Jason Kashiwabara takes the same attitude to his community service.

“It’s always a great feeling giving or helping the less fortunate,” he says, and that devotion is demonstrated in his strong support for the Kaua’i United Way, Children’s Miracle Network, Kaua’i Food Drive and the Visitor Industry Charity Walk.