Earlier Hawaii was an island state with unique cultural diversity and attraction, and it was the ultimate destination of choice for local and international travellers from all over the world. Later they adopted sustainable tourism as their strategy and Sabah can take a learning experience from Hawaii.
Dr Linda J. Cox who has served for more than 30 years as a university of Hawaiian community economic development specialist said to The New Strait Times “Hawaii has become so popular that it has become difficult for the community to handle the footfall. The residents are feeling overwhelmed by the larger number of tourist presence”.
She has been working all these years and figure out to have a better relationship between the visitors and the residents. It is often seen that the visitors prefer staycation and stay at their resort have their meals and enjoy their time in the property itself engaging in various activities.
“This means very less engagement with the locals. So, to have a better opportunity to residents we have moved away from having many tourists and replace them with having better ones”.
Cox added “Sabah and Hawaii should have more locally owned businesses to avoid the economic leakage like having hotels and restaurant from the locals itself and avoiding the big resorts and large business owned by people leaving elsewhere.
She said that Hawaii experienced a tourist footfall of 10 Million tourists annually which surpassed the population of the small island which is 1.4Million only. But Hawaii has stopped making any more resorts or hotels and will not make any soon whereas she said Sabah hasn’t stopped yet.
Some of the existing hotels are converted into a condominium for locals to buy and rent out to the visitors to make their own profit.
On her visit to Sabah Cox said that she aimed to engage and share her view of sustainability, sustainable tourism and issues faced by local institutions, non-government organisations etc.
Having stayed in the state capital for a week she observed the hotel industry at Kota Kinabalu is developing well but nevertheless noted that the state authorities should consider more homestay facilities to connect visitors with locals. This obviously caters to that segment of visitors hi aren’t in rush and want to explore the place and its culture intensely.
When asked about the potential of Sabah and Hawaii establishing ties, Cox said it will be an interesting idea to explore. She added” A lot of things are to be learnt and I’m convinced that island economies are special, and we can learn a lot from each other.
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