The Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association (NaHHA) was founded in 1997 by George S. Kanahele, Kenneth Brown and other Native Hawaiian professionals to address concerns about how Native Hawaiians and Hawaiian culture were perceived and represented in tourism.
They determined that, in order to have greater success in improving tourism and honoring Hawaiian culture and its people, they would need support; in 1997, they formed NaHHA, a 501 (c)(3) private nonprofit.
NaHHA advocates for the development and advancement of Native Hawaiians in tourism as the best investment in future leaders and in the perpetuation of authentic culture in the industry.
Working to better connect the Hawaiian community and the tourism industry, NaHHA has formed alliances with various Hawaiian organizations and nonprofits, artists and cultural practitioners, and with tourism associations, hotels and private businesses.
These connections and alliances have gained NaHHA recognition as lead agency for the Hawaiian Culture Initiative of the Hawai‘i State Tourism Strategic Plan.
In keeping with their mission, NaHHA recently completed a two-year train-the-trainer program to develop Hawaiians to provide cultural training and consultation.
Ola Hawai‘i, “Hawai‘i Lives” is NaHHA‘s educational program for today‘s ho‘okipa (hospitality) industry, for managers and employees who seek to have a better understanding of the Hawaiian culture.
While the curriculum is designed around Hawaiian values, it honors the cultural diversity of Hawai‘i.
Native Hawaiian culture not only lends fundamental value to Hawaii as a visitor destination but is exploited as a marketing theme in the selling of Hawaiʻi raising expectations that Native Hawaiian experiences are readily and easily accessed.
The reality is that visitors and locals alike are hard-pressed to find native Hawaiian cultural experiences.
Information that will connect them to authentic Hawaiian cultural experiences is difficult to access because it is not included in the mainstream visitor information programs.
NaHHA also sponsors Native Hawaiian Tourism Conferences and dialog with the goal to enable partnerships and inspire actions that result in:
• a greater collaboration between Hawaiian businesses/community and the visitor industry
• increased integration of Hawaiian culture in hotels and other businesses;
• practices that mālama ʻāina – care for our natural environment
• creative tourism, empowered communities and successful businesses
In 2006, while I was at DLNR, I had the opportunity to participate as a speaker at the NaHHA Native Hawaiian Tourism Conference. The conference theme was, “Celebrating Hawaii’s Heritage – Sustaining Our Island Legacy.”
I clearly saw the opportunity for the State (and more particularly DLNR) to partner with NaHHA by focusing on cultural matters in the visitor industry venue.
The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) awarded a coveted Gold Adrian Award to the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association’s (NaHHA) Ola Hawai’i Manual. (This is the largest and most prestigious travel marketing competition globally.)