Empowering native communities

The Native Hawaiian culture and how its legacy continues to strengthen the experience of living in and visiting the Hawaiian Islands will be a major point of emphasis at the 2016 Hawaii Tourism Conference, Sept. 26-30.

The conference is being presented by the Hawaii Tourism Authority and hosted at the Hawaii Convention Center.

Kalani Kaanaana, HTA director of Hawaiian cultural affairs, said there are 10 conference sessions focused on how the Native Hawaiian culture is transforming the way people experience the Hawaii of today.

Kaanaana added that the Native Hawaiian culture is at the foundation of everything HTA does in promoting the Hawaii travel experience.

“The cultural traditions of the Native Hawaiian people are what makes our islands such a desirable and welcoming destination to travelers worldwide,” Kaanaana said.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience, which will enhance and integrate native tourism, empower native communities, and expand unique cultural tourism opportunities in the United States.

The bipartisan legislation was introduced by U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and John Thune (R-S.D.)

“This bill will empower native communities to tell their own stories and build their own economic opportunities,” Schatz said.

The NATIVE Act will require federal agencies with tourism assets and responsibilities to include tribes and native organizations in national tourism efforts and strategic planning. It would also provide Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native and American Indian communities with access to resources and technical assistance needed to build sustainable recreational and cultural travel and tourism infrastructure and capacity; spur economic development; and create good jobs.

Rep. Jimmy Tokioka said Kauai has been ahead of the curve when it comes to promoting and preserving Hawaiian culture through tourism.

“I know hotels, including the Hilton Garden Inn, the Marriott, many of our big proprieties, have specific positions targeted at community outreach and cultural research,” he said.

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