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What does regenerative tourism look like? A fledgling program might hold the answer

The program came out complaints about overtourism and visitor disrespect.
Published: Nov. 1, 2021 at 6:00 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 2, 2021 at 11:53 AM HST
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KEANAE (HawaiiNewsNow) - Complaints this year about overwhelming tourism led to promises that the industry would find ways to manage the congestion and encourage visitors to be more respectful.

Now the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau is trying a new program, Malama Hawaii, that could do just that — and also help local non-profit organizations.

“They can redeem an incentive such as a free night stay or a hotel credit when they volunteer at one of our participating non-profit organizations,” said Maui Visitor Bureau Destination Manager Meagan DeGaia.

DeGaia says the goal of the program is to provide education and awareness so visitors will have a greater respect and understanding for the land.

“It provides the bridge between the visitors that are coming here and the kamaaina, the people who live here, people who are stewards of this land and who take care of this important place,” DeGaia said.

Na Mahiai O Keanae is one of the organizations being supported in the effort.

It’s a non-profit organization in Keanae that helps kalo farmers.

“No one farmer can do it on their own. We all need some help. So, we started the non-profit so we can give help to everyone and it not be a financial burden,” said Max Pichay, Na Mahiai O Keanae treasurer.

Keanae is best known for being one of Hawaii’s major taro farm communities.

The small peninsula in East Maui was inundated with visitors this past summer and it created tension with some residents.

For Pichay, it was a wake-up call for a better balance.

“We cannot survive without tourism. So, the best bet is to get everyone to understand each other because that’s the most difficult part,” said Pichay.

DeGaia said Malama Hawaii has more than 90 participating partners statewide.

“It’s a really great way for visitors to connect with the kamaaina and the aina here and really give back and have a rich cultural experience doing a variety of things, whether that’s volunteering at an animal farm or volunteering in the loi,” DeGaia said.

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