The Grassroots Future of Hawaii’s Visitor “Industry”
Pasifika Foundation Hawai‘i is engaged in a multi-year, multi-phase project seeking to provide kanaka Maoli communities access to, participation in, and control of a portion of Hawaii’s leading economic sector, the visitor industry. The project’s strategic model is the establishment of a community-based host/visitor (CBHV) program.
What is the future of this thing we call “tourism?” Are recent economic indicators telling us that perhaps Hawaii’s current corporate-driven visitor industry is, like Wall Street and Big Auto, in need of a major overhaul?
Hawaii’s existing corporate tourism industry can attribute some of its success to the islands’ natural beauty and moderate climate. More importantly however, the industry owes much of its success to the history, traditions, practices and presence of kanaka Maoli and their rich island culture.
Despite the great wealth generated from corporate tourism’s appropriation and use of Maoli culture in their promotion and marketing of the islands, very little of that wealth ever reaches host communities or their cultural practitioners. Additionally, this prevailing corporate model actually thrives on having created a “disconnect” between the host and the visitor and has resulted, at the very least, in experiences that are artificial, contrived and inauthentic, and are beneficial to neither host nor guest.
Maoli communities have been advocating for years for more community-based control of the way in which visitors are invited to our islands and engage with the host culture.
This project is a step towards rebalancing the experience for both the real host – “Maoli communities – and visitors by recognizing the host as the primary factor in a ho‘okipa equation. This means re-establishing Maoli communities as the foundation for visitor experiences in Hawaii, and then determining what Maoli communities need and want out of any interaction with their guests. By restating, reframing and rebalancing any visitor engagement with Hawaii in this way, we can begin to envision a new paradigm that uses the health and well-being, and the culture and values, of Maoli communities as the primary measures and standards for developing a pono host/guest experience.
The Phase I of this project, funded by HTA, benefited from the sharing of experiences, knowledge and wisdom of Pasifik community-based hosting practitioners from Tonga, Samoa and Aotearoa, who shared mana’o in a series of gatherings with Maoli practitioners. The goal of this phase of the project was to explore possible models for community-based host-visitor projects. A digital copy of that report is available by request from Ana Currie. email Ana Currie
Phase II, a year-long project that was funded by ANA and completed in September 2008, is an all-islands survey that seeks to gather and compile Maoli cultural and community mana’o and data about what kinds of community-based host-guest program might be appropriate. Some of the questions we are seeking to answer include:
- Where and who are the individuals and organizations already engaged in these types of projects?
- Are there communities where there exists a critical mass of an integral combination of Maoli place, people and culture, along with the intention and desire to engage and educate guests about those aspects of the community”? If so, where/who are they?
- Are there communities and groups who have ongoing cultural practices, who would like to host guests, but who have not yet done so because they do not wish to participate in the corporate-centric “tourism industry?”
- If communities do wish to host guests using a Maoli community-based model, what resources do they need to be able to function effectively as hosts?
The diversity of information collected was compiled into GIS maps and other reports that dprovide a nexus assessment of hosts and sites that could become part of a Maoli community-based ho‘okipa network, along with some recommendations regarding the creation of a pilot program.
Phase III was a two-year project that commenced in October of 2008. Funded by ANA, this project built on the previous two CBHV development phases. The deliverable at the end of the CBHV III project was a tested operational model for a community-operated CBHV network with three main components: a “governance” template for hosts, a curriculum for visitors, and a web-based interface through which hosts and visitors can interact.
The host template and visitor curriculum were developed through a series of meetings in which hosting communities defined their requirements. The focus of the curriculum development is on educating the visitor – what do the host communities need the visitor to know, prior to the visit, in order for the community to share its assets in the way the community desires? The development of the host template looks to resolve the issues around how the community manages hosting – screening, protocols, invitations, timing, capacity, resources and exchange of economic and social capital.
Over the course of the two years of Phase III, the operational model for a CHBV network was developed, tested, and prepared for broad implementation. This new model is known as “Ka Welina Network.”
The current project phase, CBHV IV, is the transitional year that will build on the previous three development phases and provide the enhanced community capacity and tools necessary for the project to transition to a fully operational CBHV network. The deliverable at the end of CBHV IV is fully-functional operating model for a sustainable community-controlled visitor hosting network that will not only be a viable alternative to corporate tourism with its destructive effects on Maoli communities, but will also provide a framework for engagement and exchange among the `aina and cultural based Maoli communities throughout the Hawaiian islands.
In this project phase, we will expand Ka Welina Network – from the original 6 host communities that participated in the CBHV III test phase – to include a total of ten or more hosts. Based on the findings and feedback from the test phase, we will be upgrading and enhancing the Ke Welina Network web site, and developing a long-range plan that includes business, operational, sustainability and promotional elements.
CBHV IV is funded by HTA and ANA.
Mahalo for your interest in this project! For more information contact Project Director Ana Currie or board President Ramsay Taum.