LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau is assessing efforts to alter the local tourism industry following the recent publication of the Kaua‘i Destination Management Action Plan Phase 1 Report.
The Kaua‘i-specific report covers the first year of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority’s three-year, county-by-county DMAP initiative, which launched in early 2021 to address a changing visitor industry.
KVB personnel, who shared their top priorities for 2022 in January, discussed the highs and lows of the project this week.
KVB Executive Director Sue Kanoho opened with the greatest stumbling block encountered since January.
“There was a universal fee that they were looking at statewide,” Kanoho told The Garden Island. “But that is dead on arrival through the legislature.”
Kanoho had named the proposed universal user-fee model as her number-one goal, at the beginning of the year. The model, had it come to pass, would have seen tourists pay to offset costs at beaches and parks throughout the state.
However, a local version of the plan remains a possibility. Visitors already pay entrance and parking or shuttle fees at Waimea Canyon, Koke‘e and Ha‘ena state parks.
The county’s Parks &Recreation Department is now considering user-fee models for Po‘ipu, Lydgate and Black Pot county beach parks.
“I think what’s going to happen is, they’re probably going to pick one and make it a pilot and see how it goes,” KVB Destination Manager Patti Ornellas said.
The Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau and its partners have made greater headway in other directions.
Ornellas and the county’s Office of Economic Development are continuing to install interpretative signage throughout the island, to promote Native Hawaiian culture and history.
“We’re looking at not only the parks, but other significant areas like the heiau and sacred sites,” Ornellas said.
This year’s state legislative session may have sank the proposed universal user-fee system, but it resulted in a win for the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau and its DMAP partners, who lobbied for more Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources rangers and resources.
“That is a homerun,” Kanoho said. “DLNR was able to get extra funding, and they’re underway with trying to find out where they’re going to focus it.”
Kanoho has said DLNR needs more resources to target illegal activities in Kaua‘i’s state parks.
Kanoho’s go-to example is Wailua Falls, where trespassing by tourists, residents and commercial photography businesses has been a perennial issue for the state.
However, she says a recent DMAP workshop with commercial photographers appears to have reduced the number of online advertisements for photoshoots in illegal locations.
“I’m pretty happy about that,” Kanoho said.
Perhaps the most concrete example of DMAP progress is Alakoko, a Lihu‘e storefront and resource for entrepreneurs located throughout the island.
Alakoko, which opened earlier this year with support from the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, does not take a percentage of sales. Instead, members pay a monthly fee to place their wares within the store. The model is intended to stimulate local economic growth by lessening Kaua‘i product makers’ overhead.
Ornellas and Kanoho also touted a series of completed and pending DMAP videos, intended for use by the travel industry.
One, titled “Hawai‘i is Our Home,” will be screened by airlines to educate tourists mid-flight.
The short videos are available on the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau’s YouTube page. They feature local entities like the Kaua‘i Museum in Lihu‘e and the North Shore’s Hanalei Initiative.
Each spot is notably reverent in tone. Local people, places, animals and culture take center stage. Few tourists are seen.
“It’s time to really set the pace of, ‘You’re visiting our home. You’re not coming to a destination where you can do whatever the heck you want,’” Kanoho said.
Players in the Kaua‘i tourism industry and beyond are buying into that message, according to Kanoho, who said the Princeville Community Association has presented a “Princeville Management Action Plan” to the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau.
The document, which localizes elements of the islandwide Destination Management Action Plan, is the Princeville Community Association’s commitment to better manage their corner of Kaua‘i.
On the opposite side of the island, the Grand Hyatt resort in Koloa has opened a Native Hawaiian cultural center.
“It’s a place that connects our past to our present and provides a place for both malihini and kama‘aina to gain a greater appreciation and understanding of Hawaiian culture,” the resort’s Manager of Hawaiian Culture Moani Tolentino said.
The cultural center is named Ke Kumu O Hihinui, in honor of the ili (land section) the property sits on, according to Tolentino.
Ke Kumu O Hihinui opened earlier this year.
Its cultural classes and workshops are currently limited to resort guests, but Tolentino hopes to welcome kama‘aina in the near future.
“I hope that our cultural center will become a place where everyone can come together to learn from each other and share their aloha,” Tolentino said.
“It’s important that we as kama‘aina share our aloha for our island and culture with our visitors so they have a better understanding and respect for it,” she continued. “It’s equally important that our kama‘aina learn more about our culture and history so they too can gain a better understanding and respect for it.”
The Kaua‘i DMAP and related updates can be found on the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority website, hawaiitourismauthority.org.
Source: The Garden Island