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Oahu's Latest Announcement is a Win for Responsible Tourism

April 23, 2014 at 1:45 PM | by | ()

Last week, Hawaii announced that was establishing a conservation easement on a section of Oahu’s North Shore, effectively shielding over 650 acres of land from future development.

The agreement ensures the land, which is owned by Turtle Bay Resort, will never suffer the same fate as Waikiki and become an urban development project. Marine and land ecosystems will be protected and thus restored, and the area will become a haven for public recreation, education, and cultural activities.

While this news might disappoint developers, it should be met with jubilation by everyone else. The common knock against Oahu, both by travelers and locals, is that it has lost so much of its roots and culture to tourism that it is barely Hawaii anymore. This writer was personally told that several times on my trip last fall, especially by those who live on Kauai and Hawaii Island. It is because of those conversations that it pleases me very much to report this news, and that no significant, further development will take place on this part of the island. We cannot undo all that has been done, but we can shape the future with our decisions today.

I talked about this topic a few weeks ago, when I reviewed a book that discussed the dark side of the tourism industry and the short-sighted quest for cash that results in the demise of natural resources and landscapes. Waikiki certainly has its benefits and has been enjoyed by millions of people, but there’s no question it has come at the expense of Mother Nature. I wrote a piece last year on our sister site, HotelChatter, that tackled this very same topic with islands in the Caribbean. It goes for every destination, but for islands especially. There’s only so much land to go around, and at some point, the development of a destination changes it into something it never was before. Opinions vary on whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but regardless of where you stand, it’s fair to assume we can all agree that these decisions must be taken seriously and be thought out beyond short-term financial gain.

It’s always scary when tourism is one of a destination’s top industries because there is incredible pressure to become something other people want you to be. When you rely on money from tourists, you better entice them to spend it. To see this decision made by Hawaii for the benefit of its own people and the conservation of land for future generations is music to my travel writing ears, and there's no question it will benefit tourism in the long run. Too often I find the reverse to be true, and I’m a fan of celebrating responsibility in tourism. Big props to the State of Hawaii, the City and County of Honolulu, the Trust for Public Land, and Turtle Bay Resort for putting their heads together on this one.

[Photo: Flickr]

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