Residents Take Lead in Island’s Tourism Plan

“Educate the visitor about our lifestyle,” said Molokai resident Kilia Purdy-Avelino. “The best way to help with that process is education through information.”

That’s the approach Molokai community members are taking in the development of a new brochure about the island geared towards visitors.

A new Destination Management Action Plan (DMAP) is set to be developed this year by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA). Over the past several weeks, members from the Molokai DMAP task force held community meetings throughout the island to share some of their updated work, especially regarding a new brochure aimed at visitors. These meetings were not organized through the HTA, but rather funded and sponsored by the local organization, Molokai ‘Ohana.

“Our task as a communications committee was to come up with a brochure that Molokai would be okay with,” explained Kilia Purdy-Avelino at the community meeting in Kaunakakai. “We wanted to portray our voices.”

The goal of these community gatherings was to solicit resident feedback on the draft brochure “in the hopes that [HTA] will print and publish what we want, what our community is saying,” explained Purdy-Avelino.

The brochure is marketed to Molokai visitors, encouraging them towards certain destinations and behavior. These destinations exclude areas only reachable by dirt roads as well as culturally sensitive sights. Likewise, the brochure informs on Molokai driving etiquette, safety resources and other ways to visit responsibly.

The information on the brochure itself has been a point of contention between Molokai representatives and HTA. Specific wording around buying property, photos of certain locations, and even the spelling of Molokai itself have been crucial points for the Molokai communications group working on the project.

Some residents questioned whether Molokai even needed the HTA when making decisions about tourism, or if a brochure was an effective marketing tool in today’s world.

Kalani Ka’ana’ana, Chief Brand Officer for the HTA, explained that the DMAP is intended to amplify community engagement in the marketing of tourism, and “provide [the community] a voice in tourism decision making.”

Ka’ana’ana acknowledged that the HTA’s mission can be difficult to balance.

“HTA does have the responsibility to create travel demand to the Hawaiian Islands, and on the other end of that spectrum…managing the impact of those tourists,” said Ka’ana’ana. “We’re in a rough place…we want to do the job that we are tasked with by law, which is to create travel demand to the Hawaiian Islands, but we’re also trying to balance that with residents’ desires.”

While the HTA uses digital methods of marketing for other islands, besides just brochures, according to Ka’ana’ana, the HTA isn’t currently marketing Molokai in that way.

“We paused everything,” said Ka’ana’ana, “given some of the resident sentiment around tourism at the moment.”

According to Ka’ana’ana, while Molokai residents can put out independent tourism materials, the HTA has expertise and experience in effective marketing.

“There’s a language [tourists] respond to that we study, that we understand,” he said. “We do believe that we can offer some of our best advice and experience to reach visitors so that the outcome is better behavior on behalf of those visitors.”

As to why the HTA wasn’t participating in the most recent Molokai meetings regarding the new brochure, Ka’ana’ana said that the HTA just wasn’t ready to move forward yet.

“We intend to have an HTA meeting…and work through some of these conversations,” said Ka’ana’ana. “When we’re ready, we’ll do our meeting.”

For now though, there is no date for that future HTA meeting on Molokai.


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