Tourism industry must embrace quality control

I just got back to Maui after a spectacular cruise on the stellar QE2 to Alaska’s Inland Passage. The trip, what I saw of Alaska, and the ship surpassed my expectations. However, I am also now conflicted given my participation with the obvious effects on Alaska I witnessed from cruises.

At each of our five stops in small towns, I heard from locals about the quickly shifting economic influences tourism had on the town and how the unstoppable and increasing influx of tourists seemed impossible to control, and where like Maui, decades of the economic foundation of the towns was shifting rapidly from fishing and timber to tourism. Sound familiar?

Most alarming was the fear caused by the tsunami of tourists — while providing steady work — causing great environment strain on the cultures, land and infrastructure. I was reminded of Molokai’s stopping cruise visits to the island. Nestled in between shop after shop, one could find quality, locally made handicrafts as well as spectacular parks, lakes and environment — still enough to take away from the spreading, oftentimes ugly commercialism.

Many shops had signs stating made in Alaska! Like Mauians, Alaskans are increasingly asking: “Is it about quantity and or quality for the tourist industry, and how does one exercise some reasonable control?”

The tourism industry must fully embrace responsible and reasonable quality control, for the long-term consequences of not doing so eventually creates economic chaos while destroying the environment. Is it a Catch 22 scenario?

Vinnie Linares