The future of Hawaii tourism

A stroll of Waikiki in the late 90s is different from a stroll of Waikiki today.  Obvious is the unfinished beautification project that is bringing a much-needed fresh air and changing the overall face of one of the world’s most visited destination.  The beautification of Waikiki is coming along wonderfully, with the little nuisance of obvious roadwork.  Trees have been added, so have unusual water fountains (like the one depicting a surfer riding a wave.  A giant movie screen has also been installed in Waikiki beach adding the element of romance for visitors who may want to catch a movie under the stars, sitting on the sand. 

On my sit down with Hawaii’s Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert, I inquired as to who is responsible.  She said:  “The whole revitalization of Waikiki has been a phenomenal development process.  From just the overall appeal to what they are doing now in Kuhio ; widening the sidewalks, putting those trees.  The City and County of Honolulu is the people that came up with the plan for that redevelopment effort and revitalization of Waikiki.  They are the ones who have been implementing the infrastructure improvement.  Along with the infrastructure improvement, of course, is the private sector who are realizing that they need to change their products as well.  Redevelop, reinvest.”

Wienert cited the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center as an example.  According to her, there is going to a major redevelopment of the Royal Hawaii Shopping Center “to really open it up, change the appearance of it, which is going to be a huge improvement to the aesthetics there on that huge land that Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center has.”

Wienert added that other redevelopment projects are in the works for Waikiki’s landmarks.  The International Marketplace, which is located across the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, has redevelopment plans scheduled to commence next year.  “Change the whole face of the entire area. . . so the whole block will have a completely new appearance,” Wienert said.

A stroll of Waikiki you will also find a heavy police presence, especially during weekend nights.  It is not uncommon to see two or three police officers standing in .  Is this the result of a high crime rate?

“Waikiki actually designated as an improvement district, which means that all of the property owners within the boundaries of Waikiki that are designated within that boundary pay an additional tax that goes to the improvement district.  And basically it’s levied by agreement as to who pays what.  Those dollars are used for specific things for Waikiki. And one of the things that was thought that was needed was a more physical presence from the police,”

“We have a Waikiki Police Station, we have officers on bicycles, we have a lot more patrolling going on, we have a lot more foot officers.  It is all paid for by the Waikiki Improvement Association, so there is physical police presence to deter crime in Waikiki,”

So has Waikiki’s crime rate gone up?  “It has gone down because of the deterrence by police on patrol,” answered Wienert.

On terrorism, Wienert said Hawaii has taken all the precautions that are necessary.  She admitted that Hawaii is as vulnerable as any other US states though she noted that there has been no credible threat issued specifically for Hawaii.  “Our Law Enforcement and the Department of Defense have a good working relationship, we got great plan,” said Wienert.

Hawaii tourism is not only set in redevelopment and upgrading its products, but it also has its focus on conquering new markets.  The German market, in addition to being a steady market for Hawaii, is likely to expand if plans of a charter flight push through.  Wienert stated that talks of bringing a German charter flight started in March at the International Tourism Exchange in Berlin.  “Nothing is set in stone but we are optimistic it will happen,” Wienert stated .

Hawaii is a diverse a destination gets. “Looking at all the islands and what they’ve become and developing into, you’re going to see that the person who wants to spend US$100 a day there’s going to be a place in one of our islands that fits that bill.  If you’re a person that likes to camp or backpack and hike and things like that, a product in one of our islands will give you just that.  If you’re a person that wants to spend US$1000 a day, wants to go to spa and be pampered, have the kind of shopping that you want, one of our islands will supply that.  That is what makes Hawaii so unique, the product is so diverse depending on what islands you are on,” Wienert said.

In the future, according to Wienert, there is going to be a clearer definition between the product and each of the islands.  “Kauai is definitely an outdoor, phenomenal scenery, the natural environment. . .  for that person who wanting quiet, wanting solitude, wanting the natural beauty, wanting that outdoor feeling.  Maui, we are positioning at the high-end; lots of activities and attractions.  In Oahu, we also wanted to attract the high-end, but because of the convention center we also have the opportunity to attract big corporate groups,” closed Wienert.

eTN Honolulu
author: Nelson Alcantara

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