Maui News

Public Invited to Virtual Town Hall June 21 about Sustainable Tourism in Maui County

June 15, 2021, 10:35 AM HST
* Updated June 15, 12:11 PM
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A virtual town hall will be held June 21 to discuss the future of sustainable and regenerative tourism in Maui County. L-R: Maui County Councilmember Kelly Takaya King, Ekolu Lindsey, Orion Cruz and Dr. Genesis Young.

Maui County Councilmember Kelly Takaya King of South Maui will host a virtual town hall webinar on Monday, June 21, from 6 to 8 p.m., to discuss the future of sustainable and regenerative tourism in Maui County. 

The town hall comes at a time of shifting public sentiment toward the tourism industry as visitor numbers recover to pre-pandemic levels, according to a news release from Councilmember King.

All members of the Maui County community are invited to participate and share their perspectives regarding problems, opportunities and solutions related to Maui County’s visitor industry. The event will feature a panel of leaders in sustainability and tourism: 

  • Dr. Genesis Young, MD, chair of the volunteer Climate Action Advisory Committee Sustainable Tourism Subcommittee. Dr. Young will speak about the carbon footprint and ecological impact of tourism. 
  • Orion Cruz: International Associate with Defenders of Wildlife and former legal counsel to the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism of the Republic of Palau. Cruz will present best practices from his experiences as Palau transitioned to becoming a leader in sustainable tourism policies. 
  • Ekolu Lindsey: President of Maui Cultural Lands and Co-Founder of Polanui Hiu. Lindsey will discuss efforts to grow the regenerative eco-tourism industry, including opportunities for Maui to promote cultural and environmental activities for visitors. 

Following short presentations from the panelists, time will be allotted for public Q&A and panelist discussion. To conclude the town hall, Councilmember King will lead a conversation with the panel and the public to summarize concerns and possible solutions, and plan next steps for Maui County. 

“The pause in visitor arrivals during the pandemic highlighted the benefits of a break from tourism,” Councilmember King said. “With visitor numbers now exceeding projections for post-pandemic economic recovery, we have seen community outcry and concerns about the impacts and expansion of the visitor industry. 

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“In 2019, the number of visitors to Maui exceeded the guidance of our Maui Island Plan, which states that there should be no more than one visitor for every three residents. We are now on track to match that pre-pandemic volume of visitors and possibly exceed it this summer.”

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Earlier this year Councilmember King introduced Resolution 21-18, ‘Expressing Support for Sustainable Tourism, Emphasizing Quality Over Quantity,’ which was adopted unanimously by the Council. Now, there are two widely supported bills pending action by the County Council that would place a moratorium on the development and expansion of visitor accommodations. 

“The community wants action to ensure a future for the visitor industry that protects the people, culture and environment of Maui Nui,” Councilmember King said. “I hope members of the community will join us on Monday to share their vision of what tourism should look like moving forward, and I am excited to participate in the dialogue between members of the public and panelists.” 

To participate in the town hall webinar, attendees may join via Zoom at https://zoom.us/j/91038613207. The event will be streamed to Facebook Live on Councilmember King’s page at https://facebook.com/CMKellyTKing. Follow Councilmember King on Facebook and Twitter @CMKellyKing to receive updates and reminders about this event. 

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Bios for the Host and Speakers:

Kelly Takaya King: She holds the County Council seat for the South Maui residency area and is the Chair of the Council’s Climate Action, Resilience, and Environment (CARE) Committee. Sustainability and environmental protection have long been a focal point of King’s career. She is Vice President and Co-Founder of Pacific Biodiesel, a renewable energy company she founded with her husband Robert King in 1995.

Councilmember King also is a member of the Board of Directors of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA and Vice President of the Hawaiʻi State Associations of Counties Executive Committee. In the last year, Councilmember King has authored legislation to support a moratorium on visitor accommodation expansion and development, sustainable tourism, a transition to a circular economy, the THRIVE Agenda, and the Paris Climate Accord. In budget sessions, she is a consistent voice for funding recycling, wastewater reuse, open space acquisition, smart growth and environmental protection. 

Dr. Genesis Young: He is a retired medical doctor who practiced on Maui from 2013-2019. He is the director of both the Network for Nonviolent Communication and the Teran James Young Foundation. Dr. Young is also the current Chair of the volunteer Climate Action Advisory Committee Sustainable Tourism Subcommittee.

Under Dr. Young’s chairmanship, the Sustainable Tourism Committee helped to draft Maui County Resolution 21-18, “Expressing Support for Sustainable Tourism, Emphasizing Quality Over Quantity,” which was later passed unanimously by the Maui County Council. 

Orion Cruz: He is a lawyer from Maui. He focuses on environmental law and advocacy and is particularly interested in issues related to tourism, sustainable development and marine conservation. He has worked or interned with several international environmental organizations in the US and Latin America, as well as for the Republic of Palau in the Pacific.

Orion currently works as an International Associate with Defenders of Wildlife. Prior to that, he served for three years as the legal counsel to the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism in Palau on matters related to protected areas, fisheries management and tourism. 

Ekolu Lindsey: He was raised on Maui, where he loved visiting his grandparents’ home in Lahaina to surf, swim and fish in the waters of Polanui. He graduated from Kamehameha Schools on O‘ahu, and earned a BBA at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Ekolu’s parents are Ed Lindsey, a Native Hawaiian and lifelong schoolteacher, and Puanani Lindsey, who co-founded Maui Cultural Lands in 2002.

After his father passed away in 2009, Ekolu carried forward his family’s legacy of service and their vision of protecting and restoring Hawaiian cultural resources and the marine environment. Ekolu is the president of Maui Cultural Lands and in July of 2015, completed a 10-day, 500-mile journey aboard the voyaging canoe Hikianalia to the Papahānaumokuäkea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to conduct reef surveys and fish monitoring to help better manage Hawai‘i’s marine resources.

Ekolu also cofounded Polanui Hiu, the first Community-Managed Makai Area on Maui. Ekolu sits on many nonprofit boards and donates his time freely to create a better world by serving the present for those not yet born.

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