Name: Katie Bochnak
Type of Project: Creative and Artistic Endeavor
- Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.
For my STEP signature project, a fellow student and I took an informative trip to Hawaii as a continuation of our research about its tourism and hospitality industry. During our trip, we took several guided tours in different sectors of Hawaii’s tourism industry and met with the president of one of Hawaii’s top marketing companies. The goal of this trip was to gain knowledge of the structure and makeup of the tourism industry and how Hawaii kept a thriving economy while standing on the shoulders of its tourism industry.
- What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.
While on this trip my eyes were opened to the reality of island living and the many implications it came with that often went unspoken. Hawaii was by far the most unique destination I have yet to visit. Its’ diversity stood out to me because its cultural background is a mix of Polynesian, American and Asian cultures that blend so seamlessly together that you never felt a sense of majority from any one culture. To me it was beautiful to see so many cultures living in harmony, with no angst, anger or resentment. This immense assortment of culture all occupying the same space was something I was largely unfamiliar with, and truthfully did not think existed within the United States. What locals deemed as the “aloha” spirit was truly in the air as many people carried a happier demeanor than what you would see in people day to day in places like Cleveland and Columbus. Nonetheless, whether it be the sunshine or water, the native people of Hawaii seemed more hospitable, open minded and patient than what I would label the typical person in the Midwest. As one tour guide described it, the mind set of “live and let live” is possible wherever you go, it is just a matter of having respect for others and always remaining humble. I found the naturally blended population on the island and the fact that no single culture is deemed “native” to be a key reason why there is no angst/anger for others However, living the island life does not mean your life is free from any complications or hardships.
Before this trip, I also assumed all those who lived in Hawaii took on a casual, easygoing lifestyle and most of its residents were those from the upper class that could afford the expensive cost of living on the island. However, what I found was that the island is also plagued by an increasing number of homeless individuals and those struggling to make ends meet in the lower class. I learned that the homelessness epidemic on the island is growing so rapidly that the government is getting involved and taking vast measures to alleviate the issue. Many of the permanent residents of the island are limited to taking jobs within the service and hospitality sector due to its overwhelming presence, and unfortunately many of those jobs do not provide the income necessary to support the cost of living. From this starts a vicious cycle of people needing the get multiple jobs to make ends meet and being unable to send their children to college, which requires their children to miss out on a college education and start work within the service industry as well. I was also shocked to learn that many of the students attending BYU Honolulu were required to work at the Polynesian Culture Center as part of a scholarship that pays for their education. One thing I noticed while on the trip was how frequently we were being thanked for coming and visiting the island. It was in those moments I realized how much a place like Hawaii, who’s number one economy driver is the tourism industry, needed visitors like us to keep a living and a thriving economy.
Lastly, the in-depth research I did on the tourism industry allowed me to gain a sense of appreciation for the field and see it as a multidisciplinary sector that entails more than what meets the eye. I found it refreshing to get out there and learn about something that does not pertain to my major (engineering) yet I have a genuine interest in. I felt as if this research gave me the knowledge I need to put more thought into the traveling I will do and have a deeper appreciation for those who work so hard to put together such an amazing experience for others when they travel. This research taught me that it is not solely the destination that makes a trip or vacation worth it; it is the individuals who dedicate their lives to shaping the tourism and hospitality industry of the location you are visiting to give you the opportunity to enjoy the best of what a destination has to offer.
- What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.
One of the first tours I went on was a motorbus tour around the entire island, stopping at multiple hotspots along the coast. During this our tour guide told us many stories about the past, present and future state of Oahu, all uncensored and eye-opening. While driving around the island, we drove past several beaches casquehead with tents and tarps. I learned that several families who found themselves unable to make ends meet would abandon their homes and live in a tent illegally on the beach. Our tour guide mentioned just how easy it was for a family to have 2 working adults and still not be able to make ends meet largely due to the high cost of living on the island. I was also made aware of a process that was taking place back on the main-land US where several northern states were tackling their issues with homelessness by buying homeless individuals a one-way ticket to Hawaii with the justification that they are sending them to a place where they will not have to risk freezing to death. While this may seem like an ideal situation to some, it truthfully is doing more harm than good. With Hawaii’s limited land, property is sparse and expensive which only complements the increasingly high cost of living on the island. And with many of the jobs taking place in either tourism or hospitality, a high value is placed on a neat, clean appearance and a familiarity with the island so that you may better serve the visiting tourist. These things would be very difficult for freshly aquainted homeless individuals to obtain. Many entry level jobs in sectors such as agriculture and construction are growing more and more sparse too as they begin to run out of land to build and farm on.
Another paramount experience I had while in Hawaii was talking with the many students of BYU who worked at the Polynesian Culture Center to fulfil a scholarship requirement that enabled them to go to the university. Several of the students discussed how this program made affording a college education possible for them. It shocked me to think that there are even students who rely on the continued success of the Hawaiian tourism industry to ensure they can obtain a college education. However, many of the students talked on how happy they were that places like the Polynesian Culture Center existed as a means of sharing authentic island culture with others. Several of the students who worked on the Polynesian Culture Center were members of the cultural groups represented within the Center and they felt honored that so many people took interest in the traditions their cultures practice.
At the beginning of this project, one of the largest questions I sought out to answer was how having Hawaii’s economy rest upon the success of its tourism alters the cultural, social and environmental aspects of the region. After doing an in-depth analysis on the tourism industry and spending ample time researching how its market works, I learned that the tourism industry is a multi-disciplinary structure that expands far beyond just marketing. While on this trip, I was able to meet with the president at Anothology Marketing Group, Nathan Kam, in Hawaii to get his thoughts on the tourism industry. Speaking with him allowed me to gain a lot of incite on the marketing strategies used to attract tourists to the island and get his thoughts on the vital role tourism plays in Hawaii, and more specifically Honolulu. I learned that Honolulu is unique as it is one of the only urban settings that exists among all the islands, housing almost all major corporations that are present on the islands. It was interesting to talk with Nathan and hear the future marketing strategies being developed to keep Hawaii a key place to travel. He mentioned the transition and goal to attract more east coast US travelers and the increasingly important role of marketing on social media. Another topic discussed was the drive to have an NFL game scheduled to take place on the island. While initially this did not seem like a big deal to me, Nathan mentioned the immense impact an event such as that would have on the tourism industry. It was not until that moment that I had the realization that Hawaii seldom gains national attention, which changing that could largely impact the money brought into the tourism industry.
Doing research in a field that is far from my major opened my eyes to how cross-functional many disciplines are. I enjoyed learning more about marketing and advertising, seeing the benefits of having knowledge on the subject even as an engineering major. To gain this kind of experience helped me to see areas as tourism as multi-dimensional and not relevant to simply one kind of major. Furthermore, this research and opportunity gave me the opportunity to connect with individuals and experiences I would have never been able to do had it not been for the STEP program and the knowledge I now haves gives me an entire different dimension to add to my learnings while at Ohio State.
- Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.
This trip challenged me to look beyond simply seeing Hawaii as just a travel destination and instead take a step back and look at the larger system I was playing a part in. While many of us millennials like to think we are spontaneous and adventurous with our travel, our arrival is analyzed, expected and planned long before our arrival. Our experiences are shaped to be what others have structured as the best features of the destination we are visiting and the hard-earned money we spend on our vacations are going towards much more than just a deluxe hotel room. Through this trip I learned that my traveling fuels an economy that connects and supports so many individuals. After taking this trip, I have developed the personal opinion that it is far beyond worth it to focus on getting to know the locals, their stories and the makeup of the tourism industry for the location you are traveling to. All too often while traveling we turn a blind eye to the people giving our tours or cleaning our hotel rooms that we miss engaging with the
Island life is not as practical and magical as it appears to be. It is expensive and difficult from an emotional perspective as you become largely limited on how much you can see you family if they don’t live on the island as well. However, while island life has its limitations, it also has logical benefits that span beyond relaxing on a beach. Going to remote places that emit a sense of relaxation, peace and diversity can be highly beneficial from a business perspective as well, increasing collaborative spirits and the flow of ideas
Through this trip I also gained knowledge in a field outside of my major and was able to see the parallels and blend of professions within the tourism industry. Prior to this trip, I thought engineers had little to do with tourism and assumed the sector was largely consisting of marketing professionals. However, after delving more into the make-up of the tourism industry, I learned that there are so many professions involved in the tourism industry I never thought of such as data analysts, programmers, engineers and much more. Having this knowledge now enables me to interpret situations from a customer standpoint in a better light, which is highly applicable in almost any job. Doing this research on tourism helped me really get inside the mind of the customer and see things from the perspective of what they would consider a worthwhile investment (such as a vacation).
Overall, I am beyond grateful for this experience and would do it all over again if given the chance. I highly recommend someone getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on an experience and knowledge they would not typically get the chance to during their current path at Ohio State.