Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association offers classes on aloha: Travel Weekly

Christine Hitt

One of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association’s core missions is to educate the tourism industry workforce on Hawaii’s culture. It offers many training sessions, and though it has been on a break it plans to offer virtual classes again starting early this month.

“Our audience that we’re really wanting to get to attend this training is anyone who has direct or maybe one level indirect visitor industry engagement,” said Malia Sanders, executive director for the association. “Meaning, they’re either already face to face with a guest themselves or are assisting someone who is face to face with a guest.”

Though the target audience is people working in the travel industry, she adds, anyone is welcome to join.

Its Hookipa: Hawaii Style course introduces the primary values of hosting in Hawaii, including aloha, hookipa (Hawaiian for entertain) and kuleana (Hawaiian for responsibility). She said that aloha is often misrepresented around the world and that better understanding will benefit the worker and the visitor. The simple greeting has a deeper cultural and spiritual significance for Native Hawaiians.

“Talking about these values with the people who are working in the industry allows us as Native Hawaiians to extend our culture beyond just ourselves, because the people in the industry, not all of them are Native Hawaiian,” Sanders said. “But if they host from the same set of values that we host from, then it makes the whole experience more authentic.”

The Olelo Hawaii: An Introduction to the Hawaiian Language course is not meant to make its students fluent, but rather teaches pronunciation. It offers tools and lessons on how to read and speak the language.

“When a worker in a hotel is sharing with a visitor, they’re both learning,” Sanders said. “The more the worker uses it, the better they get at it. The more opportunities that the visitor has to hear it, the more likely they are to use it.”

She hopes that industry workers attending the course will pass on the information to visitors and lead by example.

The Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association has been around for 25 years, and its training has evolved over the years — now it’s mostly online — and new classes have been added.

Malama (the Hawaiian word for “to take care of”) is one of the new courses it added, as it’s a term that’s being used more frequently.

“As we move into the regenerative tourism realm, malama is the guiding principle of the Hawaiian culture that helps explain what regenerative tourism is,” Sanders said. “Regenerative tourism is malama; it’s malama in action.”

Anyone interested in taking the courses can visit the association’s website and click on the calendar to see available classes.

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