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Sustainable tourism strategic plan

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Tourism
Wordcount: 5398 words Published: 24th Apr 2017

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Executive Summary

Tourism is the main generator of revenue in the Hawaiian economy. Therefore the state markets itself primarily as a tourist destination. In keeping with this image the Hawaii Tourism Association (HTA) has developed the Hawaii’s Tourism Strategic Plan: 2005-2015. This is a comprehensive plan which is inclusive of and addresses the needs and responsibilities of all stakeholders in Hawaii’s tourism product. The purpose of this essay is to conduct an analysis into the sustainability of Hawaii’s tourism product by evaluating their policies, principles and sustainability practices as outlined in the plan.

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A SWOT analysis will be presented identifying Hawaii’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as it pertains to their tourism product. The product will also be assessed based on the criteria which embody the four pillars of sustainable tourism which are economic, ecological, cultural and local sustainability. The principles governing Agenda 21 will also be used as a guideline to evaluate Hawaii’s tourism product. Recommendations will then be made based on the limitations of the product that were identified and a conclusion based on the results of the analysis.

Hawaii, the 50th state of the Unites States of America is an archipelago which comprises of eight major islands known as Hawaii, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai, Niihau and Kaho’ olawe. This group of volcanic islands is located in the Northern Pacific Ocean at approximately 2,400 miles West South West of San Francisco (City-Data.com, 2010). The island’s tropical climate coupled with its beautiful scenery which comprises of lush rainforest, exquisite beaches and sensational mountain ranges has made it a very attractive destination for tourist. In addition, its multicultural society has resulted in a rich cultural diversity which also adds to the distinctiveness of the archipelago. As a result, the main revenue generator is tourism which contributes the most jobs, income and growth to the Hawaiian economy. According to the Department of Business, Economics, Development and Tourism, (2009) the number of stay over tourist for 2009 was 6, 514,382 which contributed to approximately 20% of Hawaii’s GDP. This is a clear indication as to how important tourism is to the Hawaiian economy.

The importance of sustainable tourism in the current global climate cannot be underscored. According to the World Tourism Organization (2004), any type of tourism destinations should develop sustainable tourism guidelines and policies in order to strike a balance between the socio-cultural, economic and environmental aspects of tourism so that environmental resources are efficiently utilized, the unique aspects of the culture are preserved and respected, and all stakeholders in the economy benefit. Therefore, it is important that Hawaii’s Strategic plan for tourism incorporates all of these aspects in order to be effective. The vision that Hawaii formulated for its tourism product by the year 2015 is as follows:

“Honor Hawaii’s people and heritage; value and perpetuate Hawaii’s natural and cultural resources; engender mutual respect among all stakeholders; support a vital and sustainable economy and provide a unique, memorable, enriching visitor experience”.

(Hawaii Tourism Authority, 2005)

Although this vision contains the key aspects of sustainable tourism development, it is important to consider in detail whether the policies, practices and principles which are included in the strategic plan are reflective of their vision.

It is imperative that even before a strategic plan is formulated that a SWOT analysis is done in order to identify the internal strengths and weaknesses of product and the external opportunities that the product is exposed to. The following SWOT analysis is a more detailed version of the one that was prepared by the Hawaii Tourism Authority[1].

As identified by the tourism strategic plan, Hawaii’s strengths as a tourism product are:

  • Hawaii is branded internationally as a prestigious exotic vacation spot.
  • The islands experience consistent warm climate throughout the year with an average variance of about 4oC.
  • Native Hawaiians have a unique Polynesian Culture and History.
  • The idea of a tropical volcanic island covered in diverse flora and fauna adds allure and appeal to the islands as a tourist destination.
  • Most visitors claim to be satisfied with their time spent in Hawaii.
  • The islands are blest with rich volcanic soil that supports the islands flora, fauna and lush vegetation.
  • Natives are very friendly and welcoming which makes visitors feel more appreciated.
  • Top class resorts provide varied quality accommodations.
  • Airport and local security is excellent which propagates a feeling of safety.
  • Hawaii offers a variety of activities and attractions to keep guests occupied, from surfing in the summer to skiing in winter.
  • Hawaii is geographically isolated in the Pacific Ocean therefore there are no other islands in the world like it.

The plan also highlights the following as weaknesses of Hawaii as a tourism product:

  • Hawaii’s geographic isolation makes it an expensive travel destination.
  • There are inadequate public and private infrastructures such as restrooms and roads which makes visitor stay more uncomfortable.
  • Visitors to Hawaii spend little time interacting with native residents especial in the rural areas
  • Hawaii offers the same types of activities it has for the past decade which has become monotonous for tourists and declined repeat visitors.
  • Inaccurate pre- and post-arrival Information on accommodation and Hawaiian culture have been a source of complaint and an expression of visitors’ dissatisfaction.
  • There is inadequate Stakeholder Consensus in the tourism industry currently and as such there is much dissatisfaction amongst key stakeholders especially amongst the native communities.
  • Businesses usually run slowly in Hawaii which increases visitor frustration for prompt service.
  • Insufficient pre-visit information has often resulted in a mismatch between visitor expectation and product delivery.
  • Hawaii has a very volatile inter-island transportation services. Taxis and tours are expensive and drivers often have very limited knowledge of the islands. In addition, many taxi and tour vehicles are not properly maintained. All together, this situation delivers poor service to visitors.
  • Airlift to Hawaii can become problematic. Apart from being expensive, most airlines have limited their flights to or pulled out of the islands totally, as a result of financial strain placed on the industry by increased fuel costs and the need for added security features since the 911 incident in New York.
  • Hawaii’s public facilities such as its park benches, public restrooms, etc are poorly maintained, which provides an unsightly attraction and uncomfortable feeling to tourists.
  • Tourists are often unaware of and have little access to many new activities available to them owing to communication and transportation limitations.
  • There is a shortage of professional (Certified) guides on Hawaii which results in poor service delivery to touring tourists and adds to the dissatisfaction visitors feel when in Hawaii.

Hawaii’s strategic plan identifies the following as opportunities for Hawaii as a tourism product:

  • Hawaii can further develop itself as a tourism product in terms of sustainable tourism.
  • The increasing patronage of cruise lines promises an opportunity for future enhancement in that industry.
  • Hawaii’s native Polynesian culture is unique to Hawaii and it offers a chance to experience an alternative culture to tourists.
  • Geographic market segmentation information affords Hawaii the chance to better customize their marketing efforts to meet the needs of their international customers. As such Hawaii can market themselves in different regions of the world, highlighting the vacation needs of these regions that it can fulfill.
  • Health, sports and eco tourism are only a few of the recent tourism markets that are evolving. Hawaii has already hosted the PGA tour and hopes to capitalize on these other new markets that are showing up.
  • Additional ferry services can certainly improve Hawaii’s inter island transportation system, allowing more efficient and cheaper transportation between islands, thus reducing the total cost of the Hawaii vacation experience.
  • A sustainable tourism approach will allow Hawaii to more prudently utilize and protect its resources thereby maximizing economic benefits from them whilst conserving them for future use.
  • Improving public and private infrastructure affords Hawaii to provide a more comfortable, sanitary and attractive destination to visiting tourists thereby reducing visitor dissatisfaction.
  • Sustainable tourism also allows Hawaii to impart ownership of their tourism product to all stakeholders. Such inclusion leads to greater satisfaction and purpose on behalf of the stakeholders which in turn maintains morale and motivation to deliver a good product.
  • Since Hawaii will be engaging culture tourism, it means that its culture must be preserved and perpetuated for future display. As a consequence, Hawaiian native Polynesian culture will be conserved over the distant future.

Hawaii recognizes the following as threats to their tourism product:

  • Most public and private infrastructure in Hawaii is quite old and as such they are becoming unattractive and possibly unsafe for use.
  • 43% of native Hawaiians feel that tourism is negatively impacting on Hawaii and as such there is a disturbing level of anti tourism mentality in Hawaii.
  • As tourism have developed in Hawaii so has crime and drug use, if this trend is to persist security will soon become a deterrent for visitors.
  • Disruptive world events such as, 911 terrorist attacks, world financial crisis, H1N1 virus, etc , continue to placed added financial strain and fear on travellers and airlines. As such, travel is compromised and less persons car willing to or can afford a Hawaiian vacation.
  • Limited state funding is quickly becoming an issue because sustainable tourism is a costly framework to operate and Hawaii’s current funding is insufficient to fully engage the concept.
  • Hawaii is now receiving increased global competition from other destinations such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Seychelles, Caribbean, etc as alternative vacation hot spot offering a wide range of services and unique cultural experiences.
  • Increased Homeland Security measures from the U.S makes travel to Hawaii frustrating and as such visitors are often repulsed by the extensive searches and long lines that result, from the enforcement of these measures.
  • The volatility of the airlines continues to remain a problem for the foreseeable future for Hawaii. With over 6 million visitors expected annually and even a greater number in the future, airlift to Hawaii is simply insufficient. However, Hawaii has no control over the added expenditure constraints faced by the airlines that are faced with no choice but to increase airfares or decrease flight numbers.
  • At present there is a level of internal disagreement and complacency as it pertains to tourism management. Some feel that native Hawaiian culture and identity is being threatened along with their environment. Others feel that the Hawaii brand is strong enough to sustain Hawaiian life and there is no need to undertake such immense spending. If these types of attitudes continue to prevail, Hawaii as a tourism product will soon be in trouble.
  • Many natives feel that Hawaii has been so focused on tourism they have not realized that Hawaiians themselves have become a lot like the tourists that visit, in terms of their dress, speech, lifestyle, foods, etc. As such, some feel that Hawaiians are losing their identity and sometimes it’s difficult to tell who the tourist is from who the native is.
  • The current cost of the Hawaiian experience is too expensive. It is the number one deterrent for potential visitors. Unfortunately, with the volatility of the airline industry that cost is more than likely to get even higher.

The first aspect of sustainability that will be looked at is economic sustainability. According to Mckercher (2003), economic sustainability should be beneficial to all stakeholders involved both presently and in the future. Principle 3 of Agenda 21 declares that “the right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of future generations.” Hawaii incorporates many economically sustainable practices in its tourism product which are highlighted in the strategic plan. The diversity of the product in order to provide a wide variety of activities for the tourist to enjoy is addressed. They have ensured that the product is diverse enough to cater to the family, a couple on a romantic getaway and even extreme sports fanatics. With this diversity comes a wide range of activities for the tourist to engage in while they are vacationing in Hawaii. Some of the activities include; hiking, golfing, scuba diving, horseback riding, spa massages etc (Hawaii Activities, 2010). However, because Hawaii’s image of being a leisure destination lacks appeal to the business tourist this limitation affects sustainability of their product since it limits the types and amounts of visitors that come to their shores.

Another important aspect that is covered in the strategic plan which is of extreme importance to the economic sustainability is access to the destination. Hawaii has encountered some major challenges regarding access to its product. Maintaining an adequate amount of airlift to the islands has become an issue as a result of the airline industry’s increase in volatility. Also, their airport and port facilities are aging and unable to adequately cater to the needs of a growing industry. The facilities at the airport have negatively impacted the total visitor experience coupled with the fact that the immigration process is very burdensome (Hawaii Tourism Authority, 2010). According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority it takes approximately 71 minutes per passenger to be processed through customs and immigration. Highways, roads and ground transportation systems are also problematic on the island. Maintenance of the roads and highways as well as the high levels of congestion is very inconvenient to the local populations as well as visitors (Hawaii Tourism Authority, 2010).

Additionally, they have recognized the importance of communication and outreach, marketing, research and planning and further product development and have incorporated it in their plan. With regards to communication and outreach, the Hawaii Tourism Authority is cognizant of the fact that the attitudes of all the stakeholders involved in the development and maintenance of their product is critical if success is to be achieved. They have identified the stakeholders as residents, government agencies, visitors and private businesses. As a result they have put measures in place to raise awareness, increase knowledge, participation, collaboration and interactions among all the stakeholders. For example, one of their policies is to conduct outreach programs and provide forums in order for all stakeholders to exchange ideas, concerns and queries regarding their tourism product (Hawaii Tourism Authority, 2010). Visitor input in this regard is limited since these forums and programs do not include visitors.

In relation to marketing, the focus is on increased visitor spending instead of increased visitor arrivals because they have recognized that accommodation capacity is limited. They have segmented their marketing efforts to cater to the differences in the conditions and needs of specific geographic markets such as Europe, Latin America, Japan, Asia etc. However, this cannot be done in isolation and must be coordinated with their product development programs. Some of the areas that have been recognized as being important to visitors are a clean environment, intriguing culture and history, a wide variety of accommodations and, safety and security. In 2009, their Visitor Satisfaction and Activity Report revealed that more than half of their visitors thought that the Hawaiian experience was excellent and would revisit the destination (Hawaii Tourism Authority, 2009). In spite of this, visitors are still requesting new and unique experiences to be added to the tourism product. This aspect is addressed by their research and planning initiative in their strategic plan and should address the development and improvement of their tourism product through research and proper planning initiatives. This is important in light of the fact that tourism is not a stagnant industry and in order to keep up with the trends and events that affect the industry proper research and planning must be done. Also, because of the growing concerns of visitors about their safety and security, this aspect is also addressed. This is an important aspect of economic sustainability because a negative perception held about visitors’ safety and security in any destination could adversely affect visitor arrivals and expenditures.

The second pillar that will be looked at is ecological sustainability. According to Mckercher, (2003) ecological sustainability should promote developmental practices which are “compatible with the maintenance of essential ecological processes, biological diversity and biological resources.” Ecological sustainability is a very important aspect of sustainable development and must be an essential part of any plan aimed at achieving sustainable development (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, 1992) Tourism puts a lot of strain on the natural resources of the state because of the continuous demand by tourist for recreation and tourism-related activities. Hawaii State Parks Survey, (2007) showed that approximately 10.1 million people visit the state parks within a particular year. As a result sustainable practices that pertain to their natural resources have become a necessity. The Hawaii Tourism Authority has placed a lot of emphasis on the upkeep and restoration of the national parks, beaches, trails waterfalls etc. They have embarked on initiatives to find methods of maintaining, repairing and improving their natural resources. Some of the initiatives are; charging entry and user fees and the provision of security on their sites in order to regulate the activities of tourist (Hawaii Tourism Authority, 2005).

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Another very important aspect of ecological sustainability is the identification and promotion of acceptable and responsible tourist behaviors. This is important in order that visitors enjoy the natural resources of the destination without destroying them. The Hawaii Tourism Authority has embarked on initiatives geared at raising awareness regarding the responsible and acceptable utilization of the Hawaii’s natural resources. This initiative is not only targeted at the tourist but at all stakeholders involved. Some of the areas of focus are educating all stakeholders about water and energy conservation practices, recycling and safety conditions of hiking trails and beaches. This education takes the form of in-room videos, brochures, website postings and warning signage (Hawaii Tourism Authority, 2005).

It is also imperative that appropriate legislation be put in place so that the sustainability of the ecology/natural environment can be maintained in a realistic fashion. Environmental protection laws such as article XI, section 9 of the Constitution of the state of Hawaii allows all Hawaiian the right to a healthy environment and gives everyone the authority to legally persecute another party for violating this right (Hawaii Legislative Reference Beureau, 1978).

The third pillar that will be looked at is cultural sustainability. According to Mckercher (2003) cultural sustainability should “increase the control that people have over their lives, coincide with the values and culture of the communities affected and strengthen the identity of the community.” Agenda 21, Principle 22 further purports that the culture and identity of the people should be recognized and supported in order to achieve sustainable development (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development). Hawaii’s uniqueness is built on the great amount of value that is placed on the native culture. According to the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, (2004) many native Hawaiians believe that their cultural integrity is being compromised as a result of increase in the number of tourist that visit the islands. As a result, the Hawaii Tourism Authority has identified ways of honoring and sustaining Hawaiian culture and as such has included it in their strategic plan.

As with any operation, there are challenges to be faced. An important aspect of cultural sustainability that has been raised is; the gap between the tourism industry and the Hawaiian natives. The Hawaiian culture is used to appeal to visitors, however natives feel isolated because they are not a part of the process and in turn, they feel threatened. Agenda 21 (UN, 1992) views this situation as a weakness based on its view that partnerships must be developed with all stakeholders with an aim of constructing collective responsibility for planning, decision-making, solutions development, program execution and appraisal. In short, authority over sustainable tourism must be shared with the native stakeholders.

Another issue mentioned in their plan was the way in which hawaiian culture is being marketed to the outside world. The Hawaiian culture, is sometimes, merged with cultures of other islands, thus, tainting its authenticity. Some also feel that there is a need for the Hawaiian culture to be highly appreciated, and most of all, preserved. According to McKercher, (2003), cultural sustainability should aim to ensure the protection of native cultures and traditional knowledge. Hawaii’s musicians, craftsmen, artists etc. are those who keep the Hawaiian culture ‘alive’, as such they should be incorporated as key stakeholders in the tourism development and decision making process.

One of the aspects that were recognized for action was that they needed to foster closer relationships between the community and the tourist in order to promote interaction and shared understanding among the groups. The Hawaii Tourism Authority, in their strategic plan, identified some objectives, which, if achieved should bring favorable sustainable results. Initially, there would be a bridging of the gap among the natives and the tourism industry through direct collaborating and engaging efforts between the two parties. Another stated objective would be to foster the Hawaiian culture by incorporating all aspects of it to gain positive results. Thereby, educational programs on Hawaiian culture, training in various aspects of Hawaiian culture such as boat building, art, music, etc, information on job opportunities available through manifestations of Hawaiian culture, will all be initiated to guarantee protection and continuance of Hawaii’s culture and traditions. The last stated aim is to support cultural, programs, artists and organizations in their work, thus bringing them together with the tourism industry and sharing a common understanding and support system for each other. According to Robinson and Picard (2006) based on the objectives and design quality of a tourism strategic plan and the implementation of policies and activities that hold culture and sustainability in regard should include the communal participation in preserving and enriching of cultural heritage over the long term. Hawaiians seems to have taken this point of view deeply into consideration, as its essence has manifested itself into the Hawaii Tourism Strategic Plan.

Native Hawaiians and their ‘host culture’ are a major part of what continue to make Hawaii unique (Hawaii Tourism Authority, 2010). Sustainable tourism appears to be a potent weapon in the fight to protect, revitalize and economically benefit from it.

The final pillar that will be looked at is local sustainability. According to McKercher, (2003) local sustainability “should be designed so that the local communities benefit from tourism activities.” Principle 1 in Agenda 21 indicates that human beings are the primary concern in all aspects of sustainable development (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development). Local sustainability is very important in order to ensure that the benefits derived from tourism are retained in the local communities. In order to ensure that the local community cooperates with the Hawaii Tourism Authority, they must ensure that they involve them in the decisions regarding tourism development. MeKercher, 2003 states as one of his principles governing local sustainability that “the local community should maintain control over tourism development.” In order to ensure that the community is actively involved in tourism development ongoing community meetings and surveys are held in order to ensure that the local community actively participates in tourism planning and policy development.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority has addressed this issue in their workforce development initiative aspect of their strategic plan. The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism has estimated that tourism provides jobs to one out of every five people in Hawaii. As a result they have recognized the importance of providing employment and opportunities for advancement to locals within the tourism industry. Some of the ways they have ensured that the community contributes and benefits from tourism are; by having outreach programs in order to educate community members about opportunities for them within the industry. Some of the opportunities available for locals in the community are the provision of agricultural products to hotels and restaurants, cultural practitioners, arts and craft and musicians. Additionally, the Hawaii Tourism Authority has pledged support to various internship programs and initiatives organized by locals which offer opportunities for them within the industry. There are also measures in place to provide organize programs and activities aimed at motivating the local workforce.

Based on the limitations identified with regards to Hawaii’s tourism product and their strategic plan, the following recommendations have been made. Firstly, a communication strategy should be developed. Although the Hawaii’s strategic plan speaks of sustainability, responsibility, accountability, etc, as guiding principles behind it, however, there is limited mention on how information is going to be communicated to the population and what channels are to be used. According to USAID (2006) a fully developed communications strategy for the implementation of sustainable tourism can help to facilitate the process much easier. USAID (2006) says that stakeholders have both a right to partake in the administrative process and a responsibility to adopt environmentally, communally and financially sustainable behaviours and practices. They add that the effective communication can create consciousness of these responsibilities and convince stakeholders the long-term benefits of sustainable tourism (USAID, 2006). Moreover, USAID (2006, P.2, Para. 2, 3.) highlights that a communication strategy that identifies “how information, awareness creation, advocacy, network building, conflict mitigation, and communication platforms will be supported” can be considered comprehensive and is critical to the success of any sustainable tourism event.

Secondly, a new instrument for measuring the success of the Strategic plan should be created. Hawaii have, resident sentiments, state and county tax receipts, visitor spending and visitor satisfaction, as its major instruments for measuring the success of its plan. These instruments however do not measure how well present resources are being preserved, to what extent Hawaii is meeting its transportation needs, to what degree is its culture being maintained and developed as a product, how much tourism earned directly and indirectly, to what extent are communities responding to and being developed by tourism, to what extent native human resources have been trained professionally and otherwise, in the industry? Each of these areas have been cited in the plan as key developmental areas in sustainable tourism yet none of them can be measured by the instruments laid out in the plan. According to the UK’s Department for culture, media and sports (DCMS) (2002), Sustainable Tourism Indicators are needed to provide measures for observing the impacts of tourism and to record advancement towards attaining set sustainable tourism goals and objectives. Nonetheless, the department cautions that “before considering what indicators could best be used in relation to monitoring and measuring change, it is necessary to generate a set of measures to provide a baseline against which to assess change” (DCMs, 2002, P.16. Para. 1). In addition, the DCMS (2002) says that measurement indicators must carry therein the capacity to identify trends and have a longevity that extends beyond the life of the programmes under consideration.

Thirdly, the vehicular emission standards for imported vehicles should be regulated. Transportation on Hawaii has also been highlighted as one of its biggest weaknesses and much is being considered to address the problem in the strategic plan. Vehicular exhaust however, has been noted as a major polluter of the environment. With an increase in transportation on the islands, the probability of air pollution also increases. If appropriate emission standards are put in place, Hawaii can ensure that the effect is minimized. According to the Uk’s Department for Transport (DFT) (n.d), many people are still unaware of the impact of road vehicles on the environment and our health but if proper regulatory measures are enforced the environmental impact of vehicles can be dramatically lessened (DFT, n.d).

Fourthly, local investment in transportation services should be promoted. Tax incentives can be offered to persons invest given they adhere to local licensing requirements. These requirements should include certified training for public and private transport operators as a prerequisite for an operator’s license that allows you to operate transportation in the tourism industry, given that you maintain certain operational standards. As previously mentioned, inadequate transportation and poor service while being transported have been cited as two outstanding weaknesses and areas of focus in the strategic plan. Promotional incentives like tax breaks can encourage persons to offer that type of service to not only help ease the problem but also create employment opportunities for themselves. However, these persons must be trained to offer quality service and their operations must meet regulatory standards that enable them to lighten their footprint on the environment.

Fifthly, waste management programs should be developed and implemented. Nowhere in Hawaii’s strategic plan does it mention addressing waste management from tourism but it does speak of protecting the environment. Increased quantities of sewage and garbage are two major threats to every environment resulting from tourism. Programs must b


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