Given that Hawaii’s economy continues to live and die on the fortunes of tourism, Pacific Business News last week gave us a brief primer on the virtues of “cultural heritage tourism.” On Sept. 24, in anticipation of the Hawaii Heritage & Hospitality Forum in Honolulu at the end of October, Pacific Business News posted a short interview with “cultural heritage tourism” expert Andrew Witt. Instead of luring tourists to Hawaii with things like luaus that feature non-Hawaiian dances, non-Hawaiian food and leis made from flowers grown halfway around the world, consultants like Witt advise communities to use their own, authentic history as a tourism draw.
The whole point of the interview came at the end of the piece, when PBN reporter Jason Ubay asks Witt why Hawaii should care about “cultural heritage tourism.”
“Economics,” Witt replied. “Basic demographics are upper-income tourists who stay longer and spend more. Most studies, even those that go back 20 or more years, show that cultural and heritage tourists spend 150 percent more than other tourists.”
Forgive me, but wasn’t “cultural heritage tourism” an attempt to stop turning a community’s history into mere commodities? Then again, given that I’ve put the phrase “cultural heritage tourism” in quotes throughout this brief commentary, it follows that I never really believed that in the first place.
Anyway, click here for the PBN post.
Photo of 1889 Royal Luau with King Kalakaua, Queen Liliuokalani and Robert Louis Stevenson: Hawaii State Archives/Wikimedia Commons