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Ratio of the number of hotel jobs to the number of visitors

Ratio of the number of hotel jobs to number of visitors

This indicator, provided by Ken Ka`imi Stokes, Community Networker (and webmaster) of the Ho`okipa Network of Hawaiian Community Based Organizations, looks at the change over 25 years in the number of hotel jobs on the island of Kauai`i and the number of visitors to the island. It connects the tourist economy on Kauai`i and the people of Kauai`i who work in the hotels. It is a measure that shows the links between economy and society.

Overview of the Issue
Tourism benefits a community by providing jobs for people in the community. While the number of jobs in the Kauai`i hotel industry doubled in the last 25 years, the number of visitors to Kauai`i quadrupled during that same time period. The result is fewer jobs per visitor, specifically a 40% drop in the number of jobs per visitor. This indicator shows that the benefit the people of Kauai`i derive from tourism is eroding over time. If the trend continues, Kauai`i will have to accommodate more and more visitors simply to keep the jobs they have.

Indicator Evaluation
Compared to many other community indicators, this indicator scores above average as a measure of community sustainability.

Carrying capacity of the community capital
Natural capital - although the indicator does not directly measure the natural capital of Kauai`i, it certainly highlights the potential for over-stressing the natural systems of the island. Both the population of Kauai`i and the number of tourists have increased dramatically over the last 25 years. In 1970, there were only 29,761 residents and 3,011 visitors per day. By 1995, population had increased to 55,983 residents and the number of tourists had increased to 14,600 visitors each day. If the current growth rate continues, by 2020 the resident population will have increased to 80,000 people and the number of visitors will have increased to almost 30,000 per day. The residents of Kauai`i need to consider the limits of the resources and ecosystems available on the island for supporting the human population while allowing the animal and plant populations to continue to thrive.

Social capital - This indicator is directly linked to social carrying capacity in that it puts the resident and visitor populations of the community in perspective. In 1970, only 10% of the people on the island were visitors. In 1995, 25% of the people on the island were visitors. By 2020, almost a third of the people on the island will be visitors.

Built/financial capital - This indicator also links to financial carrying capacity in that the benefit provided by the tourism industry in terms of jobs for residents is declining.

Linkages - The areas of community addressed by this indicator include cultural/social, economy, energy, environment, housing, land use, population, jobs, recreation, resource use, and transportation.

Long term view - The indicator can be used to show a long term view of what Kauai`i may be like in the future.

Understandable - To people concerned with sustainability, this indicator is a clear measure of a potential problem. Whether or not the indicator is understandable to the local community is another issue. According to Ken Ka`imi Stokes, "the prospect of continuing hotel job losses will take some getting used to. Some people argue it isn't true, pointing to the similarity of 1986 and 1996 data. Some folks inquired, 'what about productivity? Couldn't a decline in this indicator be attributable to a better workforce, and might they not also be better paid now?' However, by adjusting hotel jobs count with the deflated average hotel wage (i.e., what each job is worth), we showed that productivity gains only account for about one-half of the decline. (Note: real hotel wages increased 33% over this 25 year period.) Some of our audience got lost in these details."

Ways the Indicator Has Prompted Change
Again, according to Ken Ka`imi Stokes, "Among Kaua`i residents who are active in community planning issues, this indicator offers further evidence that we need to shift our economic development focus away from jobs, per se. Especially when we can show that the benefits of increased productivity go to bankers, not bed-makers."

How to Improve the Indicator
There are several ways that the indicator might be enhanced:
First, the indicator shows how the tourist economy relates to the number of hotel jobs for residents but there are other jobs related to the tourism industry that would be useful to track.

Second, as mentioned above, a measure of the amount of money per job would be useful.

A third enhancement would be to add information about how much of the tourist dollars that arrives actually stays in the community: i.e., how much of the hotel profits are reinvested in the community and how much just leaves the community to go to stockholders outside the community.

A fourth enhancement would be to show how the number of visitors relates to the amount of space available. This would be a measure of the 'carrying capacity' of the island -- the ability of Kaua`i to absorb visitors before it is no longer considered a nice place to visit because there are too many people there.

Other Things People Should Know
About the hurricane data points: Hawai`i had two hurricanes, one in 1982 and one in 1992 which greatly affected the number of visitors to the island because of the destruction caused by the storms. As a result, the number of jobs per visitor is much higher in both 1982 and 1992, due to the devastation and recovery from these "acts of God." Ken Ka`imi Stokes says, "Looks like visitors went away faster than workers were laid off. Following Hurricane Iniki in September 1992, hotels tried to keep their workers on well into 1993, even though there were virtually no visitors here for at least 5-6 months."

About the pre-hurricane upticks: Note that 1981 and 1991 were peak years in two brief (4-5 year) growth spurts. Apparently, hotels were putting on more workers in anticipation of continued growth and then cut back.

Data Sources and Additional Information
This indicator was submitted to the Spotlight by Ken Ka`imi Stokes, Community Networker (and webmaster) of the Ho`okipa Network of Hawaiian Community Based Organizations (CBO's). Ken can be contacted at kstokes@kauaian.net. His web site is http://www.kauaian.net/. Thank you, Ken for allowing us to spotlight this indicator!

The sources of the data included the Hawai`i Tourism Office (http://www.hawaii.gov/tourism/), the Hawai`i Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (http://hawaii.gov/labor/), and the Hawai`i State Data book (http://www.hawaii.gov:8080/databook/). Finding the data was not difficult. Both the Hawai`i Department of Labor and Industrial Relations and the Hawai`i Visitors' Bureau have made their monthly and annual data available on the World Wide Web.

The Ho`okipa Network of Hawaiian Community Based Organizations web site (http://kauaian.net/VTP/groups.html) includes several different indicators that look at trends in quality of life on the island of Kauai`i, as well as discussion of the connections between economy, environment and society in a tourist area.

There are many travel related businesses that use the term 'ecotourism' to describe what they are doing. However, those businesses range from organizations that are really trying to tread lightly on the environment and native cultures, to organizations that are just applying a new term to describe old, unsustainable practices. Web sites that are good places to start looking for information on sustainable tourism are listed below.

We are very interested in including comments from reviewers that add to the general discussion of measuring Sustainability. As we receive appropriate comments, we will add them here. If you have comments about a particular indicator that you would like to include, please send us a message. Likewise, if your community or organization has an indicator that you think would be a good indicator to spotlight, please let us know.