Maui Organizations Make Effort to Curb Overtourism

August 29, 2019, 12:27 AM HST · Updated August 29, 6:14 AM
ʻAʻaliʻi Dukelow · 49 Comments
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From leading the state in hotel performance, to experiencing growth in visitor arrivals, Mauiʻs tourism industry has been making noticeable strides. 

But the rise in tourism has been raising concerns for residents, which the Maui Visitors Bureau and the Maui Chamber of Commerce are trying to mitigate. 

“What has occurred is we’ve exceeded our goals earlier than expected,” chamber president Pamela Tumpap said during an informational breakfast at the J. Walter Cameron Center this morning. 

“There’s community concerns over levels of tourism, traffic impacts, housing impacts, and environmental impacts. What we’re excited to see Maui Visitors Bureau do is work on how they can educate the visitors to understand more about our community.”

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During the event, MVBʻs public relations director Leanna Pletcher discussed the bureauʻs current efforts to shift the focus of their advertisements from attracting visitors, to educating them. 

One of their campaigns, the “Kuleana” series, includes four, minute-long informational videos that aim to raise awareness on ocean conservation, ocean safety, respect for the Hawaiian culture, and astute renting. 

“These videos educate the visitors to help them respect the island and the community when they’re visiting here and also go home having had a great experience and being safe,” Pletcher explained. 

The videos, which feature some of Mauiʻs most recognizable faces like Maui Now meteorologist Malika Dudley and waterman Archie Kalepa, have racked up 2.4 million impressions in the last six months. 

Some attendees criticized the videos for not being “more in-depth.”

“Our sacred places should be addressed in those videos,” Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner Kawewehi Pundyke suggested during a Q&A session. 

For over a decade, Pundyke has been the executive director of Loʻiloa, a community outreach organization dedicated to restoring loʻi kalo, taro patches, in ʻĪao Valley. 

“There are places some extra reverence should be understood, burial places of chiefs, priests, places where kahuna would touch heaven on behalf of the people,” Pundyke described of the cultural significance of ʻĪao. 

The “sanctity and honor of ʻĪao,” as Pundyke explained, has been tarnished due to the high volume of visitors the area experiences on a daily basis.

“Itʻs been turned into a money maker to charge people to take their picture,” Pundyke said. 

In concluding the event, Pletcher assured the crowd that she and the MVB would take their input to heart.  

“To hear their perspective helps us put it in perspective too,” Pletcher said. 

“We (the MVB) can only do so much, but it’s our partners and the people within the community that are able to touch these visitors. They’re the ones that are face to face with them more so than we are. And if it starts there, then I think we’re making great progress.” 

In addition to their short videos and other digital campaigns, the MVB hosts “voluntourism” opportunities like beach clean-ups and fishpond restoration events. 

Meanwhile, Tumpap said the chamber is working with lawmakers at both the county and state levels to reach industry solutions that support the local economy while minimizing impacts on residents.

ʻAʻaliʻi Dukelow
ʻAʻaliʻi Dukelow was born and raised on Maui and is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He previously served as a Maui Now intern, working remotely while completing his bachelor's degree in Journalism, before joining the team full time.

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