Talk has slowly turned into action regarding new timeshare towers in Waikiki, and I believe these changes will have a negative impact to the tourism industry in Hawaii. With 10,000 timeshare units currently in Hawaii, accounting for 13% of total lodging inventory, this number only continues to increase as fewer stand-alone hotels are being built. Almost every major hospitality company is either revamping existing hotels into timeshare units or developing completely new timeshare properties.
I question if we’re ruining the starter market for the islands, and if Hawaii is going to abandon tourism altogether. Starting prices of timeshares in Hawaii are in the $20,000 range for a one-week interval. And who but the wealthy can afford a vacation where the accommodations start out at this price? In my mind, Hawaii is a place where young people can visit, either for a honeymoon, college trip, or a small family taking their first vacation together. It’s a place that grows on a person, and if you’re lucky enough, the first experience is enticing enough to make you plan and save for future visits. Hawaii should be a place that is attainable, contributing to the economy in a positive way. But now, with timeshares outpacing the hotel industry, many people won’t be able to afford a vacation to Hawaii anymore. And there simply won’t be enough hotel rooms, only timeshares.
As if this weren’t enough, Hawaii already has the label of being a travel destination for “older” people who can afford it. Too often we see the same, redundancy of hula performances, songs, and entertainment; things that fail to entice young people. Instead, they cater to the older crowd, the common crowd, the crowd who can afford to be there. If Hawaii wants to continue a healthy, productive economy, then we’re going to need to figure out ways to redirect attention. And the flood of timeshares is not helping. Maybe I’m just biased, but I believe timeshares bring in a different kind of visitor. And how many people take the brunt of a pushy salesperson just for the discount or coupon they receive at the end of the intense sales pitch? These meetings are high pressure, and they surely must be pushing young couples or middle class families out the door quicker than they can even give a pitch.
Is this the kind of reputation Hawaii wants to give the rest of the world? There is so much culture, history, and beauty to be had here in the islands, and I do not believe it should be reserved for only those who can afford the high (getting higher) prices. Timeshares may inevitably drive hotel costs higher, which have a direct link to air fare, which leaks out into every other aspect of cost in a desirable location. And did I mention that the timeshares are having another major effect on Hawaii? Currently, the International Marketplace, Waikiki’s only remaining untouched historical site, is being slated for demolition. A very large plan is taking place in Waikiki, including Hilton Hawaiian Village’s new 550 unit timeshare development, with the first phase of 300 units planned for completion by 2015.
Additional high rises also has an effect on the amount of sunlight let into the city. Waikiki already sees less light than its counterparts, and more buildings means more light blocked out. Waikiki just doesn’t seem the same without the natural Hawaiian sun streaming in, does it? Maybe this is what people call progress though, and maybe I’m just pessimistic. But I’d love to see Hawaii as an attainable destination for anyone lucky enough to be able to vacation, not just the ones who can afford a double digit condo. I’d also like to see Hawaii reach out more to the younger generations and entice them to share in the beauty and add to the prosperity. Because what are we without our future?