Coup d’etat for the New Future of Hawaii Tourism?

by: Juergen T Steinmetz | copyright: eTurboNews – Travel & Tourism News

Who should be the ideal future Hawaii visitor?

Malama Kuu Home, Caring for Island Earth. Malama ‘Aina” is a Hawaiian phrase that means caring for and honoring the land. This deceptively simple yet endangered practice is at the core of indigenous Hawaiian culture and guides the current Hawaiian sovereignty politics in Hawai’i.

The message to visitors is: Take a trip that gives back!
Private industry leaders in Hawaii remain mostly silent for right now.

..this is also what the new New Hawaiian Tourism Objective is.

Hawaii tourism will never be the same according to the first Native Hawaiian CEO of the State-funded agency Hawaii Tourism Authority, John de Fries. Tourism contributes more than 1.6 billion to Hawaii’s tax revenue and provides more than 1 out of 3 jobs in the State of Hawaii.

In the midst of the Coronavirus shutdown in 2020, HTA CEO John de Fries worked quietly on a plan to turn mass tourism to Hawaii into niche tourism for those prioritizing Hawaii as a cultural destination based on Native Hawaiian principles.

All documents, plans, and conversations at HTA are now also provided in the Hawaiian language.

Hawaii-based eTurboNews has a Hawaiian language edition.

Despite its history and breadth (once spoken by 500,000 people), the Hawaiian language has been almost completely taken over by English. In fact, on 6 of the 7 islands of Hawaii, the number of Hawaiian native speakers is less than 0.1% of the national population.

Hawaii Tourism Authority responds to latest version of HB862
John De Fries, president, and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority

The media did not hear much from John de Fries, CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority during the COVID crisis. He hardly spoke to the press and quietly worked on a plan some say is a Native Hawaiian coup d’etat to take over the largest and most profitable industry in the Aloha State – Tourism.

His boss is Mike McCartney is in charge of DBEDT. HTA is administratively attached to the State of Hawai‘i, Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT). HTA’s president and chief executive officer report directly to HTA’s board of directors and are responsible for assisting the board in its responsibility to fulfill the mandates of Chapter 201B of the Hawai‘i Revised Statutes.

Mike McCartney, Director DBEDT Hawaii

Mc Cartney told eTurboNews many years ago and when he was in charge of HTA about the importance of Aloha, and including the Hawaiian Culture in future tourism plans. He presented eTN Publisher Juergen Steinmetz with a book to learn about it.

Mike McCartney was born and raised in Kahaluu, Oahu. He is a graduate of Castle High School and Pacific University in Oregon.

Mike McCartney is currently the Director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT). Prior to joining DBEDT, he was the Chief of Staff for the Office of the Governor, appointed by Governor David Ige in December 2014.

He was the past President and Chief Executive Officer of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) (the same job de Fries has now).

Prior to joining HTA, McCartney was the Executive Director of the Hawaii State Teachers Association. He has served as the Director of the State of Hawaii Department of Human Resources Management, President and Chief Executive Officer of PBS Hawaii, and was also elected to the Hawaii State Senate where he served for 10 years.

McCartney currently serves on the board of the Carole Kai Charities and the Great Aloha Run, Winners at Work, and volunteers for the Hokulea Worldwide Voyage.

Hawaiian Native John De Fries was appointed as the current president and chief executive officer of the Hawai‘i Tourism  Authority (HTA) on September 16, 2020.

Born in Waikīkī, De Fries was raised there by family elders steeped in Hawaiian culture. He has more than 40 years of professional experience in the tourism and resort development industries, recently as executive director of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association. He is also president and principal advisor for Native Sun Business Group, a consulting firm focused on Hawai‘i’s hospitality and real estate development industries.

De Fries previously led the Department of Research and Development for the County of Hawai‘i, stimulating economic growth in tourism, agriculture, and renewable energy, and served as president and CEO of Hōkūli‘a, a luxury residential community on Hawai‘i Island.  

HTA is administratively attached to the State of Hawai‘i, Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT). HTA’s president and chief executive officer report directly to HTA’s board of directors and are responsible for assisting the board in its responsibility to fulfill the mandates of Chapter 201B of the Hawai‘i Revised Statutes.

The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) is a private membership organization and has been in charge for decades of the promotion of tourism for Hawaii in the most lucrative North American market until June 30, 2022

The mission for John de Fries when he became head of HTA with a little help from his friend Mike Mc Cartney is to put native Hawaiian philosophy and culture above traditional destination marketing.

As of July 1, 2022, Hawaii Tourism Authority will take most of the marketing contracts away from HVCB. Instead HTA awarded a nonprofit advocacy agency for Native Hawaiian Advancement to be in charge of the money meant to promote tourism for Hawaii’s biggest industry – tourism.

The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) is ready to turn Hawaii tourism from a mass tourism product to a niche.

The overall focus is on the protection of Hawaiian Cultural issues, the environment, the land, and the education of the visitors. Overall CNHA’s only mission is to enhance the life of native Hawaiians. Roughly 10% of all US Citizens living in Hawaii have Hawaiian blood.

After the appointment, the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) said it is humbled that the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority (HTA) entrusted us as the entity to deliver the change that Hawai‘i has long demanded of our visitor industry. “We understand there remains a process in place, and we will follow HTA’s lead in the days ahead to preserve the integrity of that process.”

In short, Hawaii most likely will spend promotional dollars to discourage a massive amount of visitors to come to Hawaii, specifically if the travel focus is only to enjoy the sand and sea.

According to the HTA Strategic Plan established after De Fries took office in 2020 by 2025, tourism in Hawai‘i will:
Ho‘oulu (Grow) the uniqueness and integrity of the Native Hawaiian culture and community; Provide a unique, memorable, and enriching visitor experience; Generate clear community benefits and responsibly manage tourism-related impacts and issues; Support a vital and sustainable economy.

HTA, in partnership with the counties and the respective island visitors bureau, developed Destination Management Action Plans (DMAPs) for Kaua‘i, Maui Nui (Maui, Moloka‘i, and Lāna‘i), O‘ahu, and Hawai‘i Island.

As defined in HTA’s Strategic Plan 2020-2025, destination management includes attracting and educating responsible visitors; advocating for solutions to overcrowded attractions, overtaxed infrastructure, and other tourism-related problems; and working with other responsible agencies to improve natural and cultural assets valued by both Hawai‘i residents and visitors.


  • Rebuild, redefine and reset tourism’s direction over a three-year period through a collaborative process
  • Collaborate and engage Hawaii’s visitor industry, communities, other sectors, and other government agencies
  • Identify areas of need that require management for proactive mitigation planning

What will be the ideal future visitor for Hawaii?

The Hawaiian Islands itinerary that can change your life isn’t found in any guidebooks. Because what makes the Hawaiian Islands truly special is not only the stunning natural beauty of our vibrant culture – it’s the deeply rooted relationship that connects them. 
That relationship between people and places grows stronger every time you malama (give back). When you give back – to the land, the ocean, the wildlife, the forest, the fishpond, the community – you’re part of a virtuous circle that enriches everything and everyone. Including your experience as a visitor. 
Several organizations offer opportunities for visitors to pay it forward, like beach clean-ups, native tree planting, and more. Engage in some of our volunteer opportunities below, and in exchange, experience Hawaii on a much deeper and connected level.

Private tourism leaders in Hawaii, hotel managers, airlines, and tour operators refused to comment on this important development for the future of Hawaii tourism.

Here are the people in charge of Native Hawaiian tourism talking story:

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Coup d’etat for the New Future of Hawaii Tourism?


Source: eTurboNews

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