Hana must remain heavenly because the culture depends on it to continue being a place of serenity and peace.
The beauty of Hana comes from the people and their Aloha. Hana’s separation from the rest of the island and it’s sense of place must be preserved for all generations.
Eco-friendly, culturally conscious tours can improve the lives of all who live along the road to Hana and beyond. The prosperity and accessibility of the area is tied to the demand for tours – and conversely, the detrimental aspects of non-stop visitation by guests is challenging as well. County, State & Federal improvements to the area were the result of tourism, but the needs of the locals were not taken into full account. We look to remedy the situation now – and in the future.
As a tour operation that covers the entire island, it is our responsibility to be receptive to the comments and suggestions to improve the experience for all who we encounter.
Our focus on culture, community and environmental impact earned Valley Isle Excursions the 2016/2017 Hawaii Ecotourism Association Operator Of The Year Award. This recognition only showed us that we need to do more.
Valley Isle Excursions Organizational Efforts To Improve Tourism In East Maui include:
We have many goals for the future and they all revolve around improving the livelihood of those who work with us; the communities, our guides and baseyard staff as well as our partners across the island – especially in Hana. We want to do better and it’s not about selling more tours, it’s about better educating our guests. Then they can take the experience of “Aloha” back home with them to live and share it – all throughout the world! Being a global destination affords us opportunities to spread the concept of Aloha worldwide. We try to be good ambassadors daily.
Feedback is very important to us and we look forward to continuously improving who we are, where we teach and how we impact the communities and environment across the island. We have questions like:
|Should we be doing more to train our guides?||Are there other organizations that you think should be supported?||Are there other things we can be doing to improve safety?|
|Are there places we should visit to help educate our guests about Hana?||What can we do to improve the stops that are made?||How can we better cooperate with the local Hana community?|
Further Educating Guides
Our Driver Training Program runs for 6 weeks – taught by our best, most courteous and respected guides. In 2017/2018 we are upping our game by getting all of our guides certified by the National Association of Interpretation. It will increase the cultural value provided to guests and inform guides on how to reduce the environmental and cultural impacts of their actions while on tour – inspiring guests to do the same both on island and at home.
How we operate is always under review, to address complaints and to protect our employees. Management staff monitor in real-time vehicle speed and stops. We are proactive, helping our drivers at stops or letting them know their speed, which significantly reduces issues.
Should we be doing more to train our guides?
Updating Tour Vehicles
Our choice of transportation comes from years of experience running tours across Maui. The size of our vehicles from mirror to mirror are smaller than commercial or road maintenance vehicles – at 16 feet in length, our vans fit into parking spots.
All of our vehicles are custom designed to handle the rigors of the Hana Highway. Our vans are built with a focus on guest comfort and safety while decreasing needed maintenance on the road as well as our vehicles. These are ongoing and fundamental goals. Our double rear tires reduce the wear on the road by spreading the weight of the vehicle across a larger area. That, in addition to backup cameras, allows drivers to safely move off the road or back out of the way in traffic.
Are there other things we can be doing to improve safety?
Increasing Community Support
Any involvement starts with an invitation which we readily accept and support with much aloha.
Education is important to us and delivering the daily newspapers to Hasegawa’s is a responsibility we take seriously. Our support of Hana includes many community organizations including, although not limited to, those in the chart below.
Are there other organizations that you think should be supported?
|Na Mamo O Muolea||Hana Art|
|Hana Cultural Center||Kipahulu Ohana|
|Palapala Ho’omau Preservation Society||Hana Senior Center|
|Hana Hawaiian Softball Team & Club||Holani Hana|
|Hui Laulima O Hana||Hana Community Association|
|Friends of Iolani|
Improving Tour Travel & Stop Etiquette
VIE stops are all about safety and we avoid stops that we feel may cause our guests to be uncomfortable. Our stops include state, county and national park lands combined with a variety of private properties and commercial operations that we have been invited to experience.
As an HEA certified operator we recycle all our tour drink containers and utilize reusable utensils for our picnic. We dispose of any trash collected in our baseyard bin. There is no garbage produced and left in Hana by our tours.
Reducing impact while providing a safe outlet for guests to travel the road to Hana and continue to utilize tours is a delicate balance.
Are there places we should be visiting to help educate our guests about Hana? What can we do to improve the stops that are made?
Hawaii Tours & Tourism
There are over 4 billion more people on earth since tourism in Hawaii took off in 1960s. The global demand to see the beauty and serenity of Hana has put incredible pressure on the community, causing tensions to reach what could be a breaking point. We look to residents across Hawaii to support efforts to improve and maintain our primary industry, tourism. Improving doesn’t mean more people. To us it’s about using the opportunities we have to educate and inspire, by spreading Aloha in better ways.
Uneducated visitors will continue to arrive in greater numbers, utilizing the sights and stops along the road to Hana as outlets for their vacation dreams. Local businesses like restaurants, stores and fruit and flower stands benefit by visitors bringing money into the community but it becomes a challenge to maintain family and community values while trying to minimize the impact of visitors.
Tourism has contributed to increasing the quality of life for Hana residents by financing road maintenance, reducing travel time and increasing safety on the Hana Highway. Thirty years ago travel time to Kahului took 2 to 3 times longer (due to road conditions) than it does today – even with visitor traffic.
In the Hawaii legislature there are presently several bills that need greater support by our communities. Many beneficial laws and their funding need to be passed. Laws that mitigate the impact of visitors to our county and state parks are of special importance as they affect the entire community. Letting your thoughts be known to your official representative helps considerably.
|U.S. Senate – Brian Schatz & Mazie Hirono||U.S. House – Tulsi Gabbard|
|State Senate – Kalani English||State House – Lynn DeCoite|
History of Tourism In Maui
Tourism has been part of Hawaii’s economy since the 1870’s. Hawaii was catapulted to fame after Mark Twain’s four month visit in 1866 as a travel writer for the Sacramento Union paper. The allure of a tropical paradise coupled with this new concept of “Aloha” began the obsession with Hawaii – a newly discovered traveler’s paradise. Hawaii’s tourism industry has evolved over the last 140 years to today’s Hawaii, which has been one of the top tourist destinations globally for decades.
During the World War II years hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and sailors experienced the islands and the kind and generous Hawaiian people who were welcoming and helpful. As the sugar industry gave way to the tourism industry Hawaiians saw the their lives changing – in large part for the better. By the 1970’s, native Hawaiians began to regain a desire to know more about the ancient ways of their ancestors. A “Hawaiian Renaissance” resulted in the building of the voyaging canoe Hokulea.
As the rest of the world has grown and expanded, so has Maui. Today the island draws 60,000 visitors per day on average, along with about 100,000 residents. The nearly 100% increase in local population may seem like a lot to a longtime local compared to the paltry 57,000 residents who called Maui home before it’s astronomic rise in popularity after 1942.
Generations of Hawaiians have benefited from the tourism industry. As the world has become a more connected society, in a lot of ways we’ve become more disconnected with the destinations we visit. Guide books, Google maps and Tripadvisor tell us where things are, but what is often missing is the human component of wisdom and knowledge gained from the Hawaiian people. After all it was the culture that evolved with the land and sea for close to 1000 years.
As tour operators we must protect that which draws people to Maui – which is it’s beauty and it’s culture. These two things go hand in hand, even if many visitors don’t realize it. It is our job to inform visitors of why Maui is so special – and why it’s worth preserving.
Actions & Ideas
We are not going to be able to stop doing tours completely. Too many people across Maui & the world depend on us to provide affordable experiences that also support the lives of our employees, partners and local residents. We want to reduce impact, increase value and improve the experience for everyone. Here are some ideas and actions we are going to take.
Within the Community
|Encourage authenticity, correcting misconceptions ||Help maintain community parks & facilities||Develop better training programs and materials|
|Stricter policy for guides and van operation||Support organizations for children & seniors||Create materials that informs all visitors and residents|
|Develop new stops to reduce impact||Closer partnerships with local businesses & groups||Give young people opportunities to grow|
|Help visitors show greater respect|
What Should We Do?
Lets work together to improve the effects of tourism on the road to Hana!