Ka Wai Ola
NaHHA Board of Directors
(L-R) John Aeto, Jace McQuivey, Keali‘i Haverly, Mālia Sanders, Douglas Chang, Monte McComber II. Missing from picture: Phil Sammer. – Photo Courtesy

On Aug. 3, 1995, Dr. George Kanahele writes a memo to Sen. Kenny Brown sharing his desire to form an organization to lead an effort towards stronger representation of Native Hawaiians and Hawaiian culture in tourism. From this idea sparked the birth of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association (NaHHA) and the desires of so many Hawaiians in the industry to regain control over the role of Hawaiian culture in tourism and the role of tourism for the Hawaiian people.

NaHHA had always conducted our signature cultural education trainings and guided tours on the Waikīkī Historic Trail since our inception. Building upon these foundations, the NaHHA of today has ventured into tourism product creation.

Our programs, Pākōlea and Kaiāulu Hoʻokipa, build the capacity of our community to engage with visitors through activities and “voluntourism” as well as programming that supports local and Native Hawaiian-owned businesses through partnerships and collaborations with stakeholders in the industry.

Through 2022 and 2023 we will execute our second cohort of both programs, growing the number of regenerative tourism product offerings and allowing our visitors to have stonger kuleana in making actionable the value of mālama.

When I started in 2011, there were only 12 Lamakū Hoʻokipa (Cultural Advisors and Resources) with full-time positions that were identified in the industry. The first kuleana given to me was to find more of them.

NaHHA continues to advocate for these positions and today that number has grown to more than 140 Lamakū Hoʻokipa in the industry with new representatives being identified each year. Through engagement, NaHHA provides tools and resources to help grow their capacity. They, in turn, provide valuable reach into the industry and feedback about the nature of their roles and best ways to support them. It was a dream of our founders to see more Hawaiians and Hawaiian culture accurately and respectfully represented in the industry.

As NaHHA grew and developed, so did my understanding of what our founders strived to achieve. I see NaHHA’s wins as industry wins. Our 25 years of success is built upon the foundation of our kūpuna leaders who have all paved the way for a future reimagined. Just look at from where we have come! NaHHA started as one cultural training program with 11 people sitting around the table “talking tourism,” to many programs and products that lead with the values of place. If George and Kenny could see NaHHA now, I think they would be very proud!

On behalf of our board and Team NaHHA, mahalo nunui to the many hands who have helped us achieve this milestone celebration of 25 years and for the many more who carry our shared desires in their hearts and minds. May each of you be guided in aloha to positively impact our communities for the wellbeing of all of Hawaiʻi. I ask that Ke Akua continue to bless our organization and each of you who continue to support us in the next 25 years ahead! Holomua!

Remarks shared at NaHHA’s recent 25 year celebration, POI & PALAKA, on Oct. 1.