From Our Files: Tourism
Throughout 2013—our 125th anniversary year—From Our Files will focus on a different theme each month, looking back at how particular aspects of life in Honolulu were lived and reported on by HONOLULU Magazine and its predecessor, Paradise of the Pacific.
This was an especially difficult “From Our Files” due to the torrent of tourism articles we’ve done over the past 125 years. That’s no surprise, since this magazine was founded as a promotional publication. In our first issue, we wrote, “It is proposed to issue a journal under the above title [Paradise of the Pacific] for free distribution at various centers of ‘tourist’ travel abroad.” It was King David Kalakaua’s intent that Paradise be Hawaii’s ambassador to the world, subtitled “Hawaii for Health, Pleasure and Profit,” a mission that influenced the magazine until its name change to HONOLULU in 1966.
“At last a first class hotel [in Waikiki]!” trumpets Paradise. “Mr. C.N. Arnold has leased the Macfarlane residence and fitted it up for a family hotel and resort.”
The magazine loved the then-novel U.S. Army Air Corps aerial photos of Hawaii, here featuring one of Waikiki, boasting both the Royal Hawaiian and Moana hotels, and not much else.
Paradise runs a series of quirky, sardonic observations of malahini and the types of visitors seen in Waikiki, each a collection of one-liners: “The man who signs his residence ‘L.A.’ on the hotel register” … “The man from the same place who signs the hotel register ‘and wife’” … “The girl who makes it a point to sit on the Royal Hawaiian Hotel beach because she thinks you see ‘nicer people’ there than in front of the Outrigger” … “[The malahini who] has embraced the belief that many lady tourists are the victims of an abnormal passion for the beachboys.”
In its souvenir statehood issue, Paradise of Pacific reviews official nicknames under consideration for Hawaii, including "The Aloha State," proposed by the Hawaii Visitors Bureau.
Being in the tourism game means fretting constantly about Hawaii’s “image.” Paradise weighs in. “Hawaii’s unmatched climate, its natural beauty, its South Seas charms … have been extolled for over a century by visitors from Mark Twain on. The lure still works its magic. But is Hawaii missing a bet by tuning its ‘ukulele too consistently to this C-major chord?” The magazine advocated more promotion of Hawaii’s urban delights and cultural charms. Today, the Hawaii Tourism Authority continues to struggle with marketing Hawaii as more than just sun and sand; one of its latest taglines for the Islands is, “Where Business and Aloha Meet.”
February 1990: HONOLULU Magazine tries to see Hawaii through the eyes of its many Japanese visitors.
HONOLULU Magazine, since 1966, has written primarily for a resident readership but has still regularly covered tourism as a business and both a blessing and a curse for Hawaii. Here it looks at plans for the then-shockingly huge Sheraton Waikiki and asks, “Can man and nature create a genuine atmosphere of Hawaiian Tropical in 31 floors of verticality?”
A century after the magazine celebrated the first real hotel in Waikiki—a converted private residence—HONOLULU names hotel developer Chris Hemmeter its Islander of the Year. Why? Among other things, “for offering to buy Hawaiian Air, then opening the $155 million Westin Maui and the $210 million Westin Kauai, two of his latest and, in Hemmeter’s words, ‘best resorts yet.’ His opinion might change next fall when the Hemmeter-designed $360 million Hyatt Regency Waikoloa opens on the Big Island.” Hemmeter’s Hyatt Regency Waikiki, 1976, had been the state’s largest private construction project to date at $150 million ($616 million in 2013 dollars).
According to the Hawaii Visitor’s Bureau, nearly 1.2 million Japanese visited the Islands last year,” writes HONOLULU, in an article in which the author tagged along with a Japanese tour group to see what they see of the Islands. “Each spent an average of $586 every day they were here [$1,049 in 2013 dollars]. … Still, with all the influence the Japanese wield in the visitor industry, and with their ubiquitous presence in nearly every sector of Island living, they are an enigmatic group. They operate within their own circles and seldom stray from the group to have any real contact with local culture or with other tourists. Many locals regard the Japanese at best as free-spending customers and at worst as interlopers who overwhelm our local resources.”
Once again, a HONOLULU writer tags along with a foreign tour group, this time senior editor David Thompson with a group of 30 Chinese visitors. Though their numbers are barely a 10th that of the Japanese tourists in 1990, they are undeniably an emerging market, yet the experience seems the same: “Increasingly, you can find them piling out of buses at the usual tourist attractions, or forking out huge sums for designer handbags and watches at luxury shops in Ala Moana and Waikiki.”
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