Is responsible travel in Hawaii fun?

In 2019, when a record 10.4 million people visited the islands, a breaking point was reached. When the pandemic hit, residents were relieved to have their homes to themselves.

In June, the Hawaii Tourism Authority shook up the tourism industry when it announced that, for the first time in more than two decades, it would not award the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, responsible for the selling Hawaii to the world for 120 years. , its multi-year State marketing contract.

Instead, the contract went to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, a 23-year-old organization that believes tourism should primarily benefit Native Hawaiians and residents of the state. The HVCB responded by challenging the decision, arguing that the process for determining who should get the contract was unfair. In October, the organizations agreed to work together and the HVCB contract was extended for six months.

Kūhiō Lewis, president and CEO of the CNHA, told me that the fact that the organization received the contract indicates a change in the way people think about tourism.

“Visitors want authentic, they want real, but they don’t even know what it looks like,” Mr Lewis said. “This change puts people and our culture at the center of the industry. Hawaii is one of the largest tourism markets in the country and could potentially be a model of what a Native-led tourism model looks like, one that gives more than enough.

Although some voices on social media may leave potential visitors to Hawaii feeling like they’re unwanted — after all, aloha means both hello and goodbye, I was told — the truth is that most residents want tourism, as long as it is respectful and caring.

What I’ve learned is that respectful and thoughtful travel can actually be fun and educational. Not only did I kayak under a waterfall, wake up to a mooing cow, and jump 15 feet into open water, but I also ate locally grown and harvested food, made shopping at local stores and learned ways to continue supporting these businesses even after I’m gone. I’m not ashamed to say that most of my holiday gifts will come from Pop-Up Makeke, the online marketplace CNHA created during the pandemic to keep local businesses running.


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