Sustainable Tourism — The People
Hawai’i has always been considered a “major player” when it comes to the travel and tourism industry. The current trend toward sustainable tourism is something that Hawai’i has done intuitively all along, and we are now on the cusp of being an industry leader for this popular concept.
Sustainable tourism lessens the impact on both the environment and local culture, while creating a more enjoyable and meaningful visitor experience.
Sustainable tourism also goes a step further and strives to provide a rewarding and enhancing lifestyle for the local population. The concept is simply to protect those environmental and cultural assets that make a place desirable to visit in the first place while learning from and benefitting the people of the indigenous host culture.
The international visitor industry is growing at up to 6 percent annually, and travelers are getting more discriminating on where they go and what they wish to experience. Increasingly, people want to discover and learn versus engaging in a passive experience. They are looking for a genuine life-changing connection to a place, which leads to first-time visitors being repeat visitors.
The good news for Hawai’i is that is what our Islands have had going for them all along. Hawai’i offers many things that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. First and foremost is our people. When people are asked to recount the high point of their visit to Hawai’i, it is the warmth and genuine kindness of our people that dominate the surveys.
Yes, they remember their first tentative attempts to surf at Waikiki, but mostly they remember the personality of their friendly local instructor. They still have their souvenir Hawaiian flute, but the more important thing is their memory of having an engaging, patient Hawaiian teach them how to finally coax a single note out of it. It’s the interaction and sharing of a unique culture by people who live it that creates a sustainable experience for all concerned. One that will be remembered, recommended and repeated.
Hawai’i has always been a magnet for diverse people. We have one of the most complex ethnic blends on the planet, and our people and culture have produced a unique and exotic contemporary hybrid. Our world-renowned Pacific Rim cuisine is an example of such creative interaction and has a growing reputation of being a bastion for world-class chefs and restaurants. Back in the ’90s, as director of DBEDT with HVB, we developed this tourism marketing campaign known as Aloha on Tour. It was all about making visitors realize that we are more than the five S’s – sun, sand, sea, surf and spirit of aloha.
Just as our people are blends of diverse ethnicities, our food, our music, our festivals and our art all represent the best of this cultural fusion. There is nowhere else on the planet you can experience this dynamic fusion of old and new, of eastern and western, of kama’aina and malihini.
What a wonderful place to visit Hawai’i has become. One day a visitor can experience and even be taught the cultural purity of a traditional hula performed by one of our talented halau, and the next watch Hawai’i’s local community embrace a gift from the Buddhist culture with the emotional lantern floating ceremony. Both are authentic experiences of contemporary Hawai’i.
An eco-tourism outing on Kaua’i would not be the same if your local guide did not point out how ancient Hawaiians used the plants and trees you pass, or that a pile of rocks once marked a heiau.
It is ultimately Hawai’i’s people who make tourism worthwhile.
MUFI’S VISITOR HEROES
Position: Guest Services Manager
Location: Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa
During his 12 years with Grand Hyatt Kaua’i Resort and Spa, Joseph Schoniwitz has worn a number of hats: assistant front office manager, security director, safety director, concierge manager, laundry manager and now guest services manager. Whatever his title at the time, though, he has given the job his all.
His energy, enthusiasm and passion for serving the Grand Hyatt’s guests are infectious. Joseph’s hands-on approach to his job has earned him the respect and admiration of his staff. You can find him at the front entrance directing traffic for a big event, helping sort and deliver luggage for the arrival of a large group of guests, or moving furniture between ballrooms. He is everywhere he’s needed. Joseph also takes a genuine interest in his co-workers, taking photos at hotel functions or gatherings and printing mementoes for the employees.
Joseph Schoniwitz’s dedication is evident to guests, as reflected in his ability to delight them with his professionalism and attention to their needs, and in their compliments for his outstanding service.