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VERGE Hawai'i: Sustainable Tourism?

Wayne Yoshioka

Nearly 700 attendees are at VERGE-Hawai’i, the Asia-Pacific Clean Energy Summit in Waikiki this week. One of the topics discussed was sustainable tourism.


The Hawai’i Tourism Authority is forecasting more than 10 million visitors to the state this year, which equates to more than 300-thousand aircraft take offs and landings at island airports and a huge carbon footprint.  Lily Donge, a principal with the renewables center at the Rocky Mountain Institute, says the solution to promoting greater fuel efficiency does not rest with the airlines but with the consumers who demand it.


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
lily Donge, Rocky Mountain Institute: Focus on consumer side

“On the fuel side, it’s about demand choice.  The choices you make when you travel when you can do a good travel program.  There’s still so much upside on fuel efficiency that we can do to ensure that aviation and flying here to Hawai’i in sustaining the tourism, can pull the changes we need.”

Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO, Peter Ingram, says sustainable tourism in Hawai’i is a balance of environmental, social and economic factors.  He says the growing consumer group consisting of Millennials -- born in the 1980s and 90s -- will demand change.


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Hawaiian Airlines president and CEO, Peter Ingram: change is on the way

“The generation of my children who have grown up thinking about the environment from the first time they started going to school and being steeped in a different understanding of what the environmental impact of different industries is and so I think it will move from being a nice to have to a need to have to be able to even attract attention in consumers as we go forward.” 


And, the Hospitality Industry is no different.  Daniella Foster is senior director for Global Responsibility for Hilton Corporation.


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Hilton senior director for global corporate responsibility, Daniella Foster: consumers are already demanding social and environmental responsibility

“We surveyed 73-thousand of our guests and we said, do the social and environmental efforts of the company you’re booking with matter.  Over 88 percent of them said, ‘yes, it does matter.’  Over 60 percent of them said it will matter more in their booking decisions over the next 12 months.  We then followed up on that 6 months later and we found that a third of guests actually look at a hotel’s social and environmental efforts.  They research it even before they book.”

Ernie Nishizaki, a former hotel executive in Hawai’i with 44 years experience, says the hospitality industry should also provide more information it already tracks to the entire community.


Retired Hawai'i hotel executive, Ernie Nishizaki: have HTA report carbon footprint data to community

“Every month, the HTA – Hawaii Tourism Authority – prints the average occupancy for the month, the REVPAR for the month, the revenue per room.  I think we should start to do is to publish, by region, how the carbon footprint – what the reduction, what the kilowatt hours per occupied room was – so the community, our guests and people who work in the hotel, understand that this is their responsibility.”


The Travel and Tourism Industry in Hawai’i is the largest employer, with 122-thousand jobs, and accounts for nearly 17 percent of the state’s GDP.  Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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