Native Hawaiian Culture In Tourism

The workforce behind Hawaii’s visitor industry works hard to show aloha to those who come to our shores. Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association (NaHHA) is an organization that helps prepare business owners and staff working in the tourism industry with the cultural knowledge they need. Its mission is to promote and perpetuate Hawaiian culture while advocating for the development and advancement of Native Hawaiians in tourism.


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Hoopili Workshop teams from Trump International Waikiki Hotel enjoy a day in cultural immersion at Kako‘o ‘Oiwi in He‘eia | Photo from NaHHA

It was founded in 1997 by George S. Kanahele, Kenneth Brown and other Native Hawaiian professionals to address concerns about how Native Hawaiians and Hawaiian culture were perceived and represented in tourism. Their belief is that we need to concurrently support improving tourism and honoring Hawaiian culture.

A major component of NaHHA is workforce development training, which includes consulting and educating, developing and implementing effective communication tools, conducting research, and providing project support and coordination to businesses that cater to our visitors. Through a culturally based curriculum, our basic objective is to teach the Island way of hosting, which translates to great customer service. In addition, NaHHA works to teach respectful visiting, which only can be derived from respectful hosting.

Our training has benefited various people who make a living in the visitor industry. I can recall one young cultural practitioner with limited financial means receiving his certification through NaHHA, who now is employed full time at a Maui hotel serving as a cultural consultant — a job that is in demand with steady pay. Another example is a local tour company whose sales increased because its sales staff attended one of our training sessions. The overall result of workforce development has been positive for the visitor industry and all of Hawaii. We hope to expand our training so the values of hosting are pervasive throughout communities outside of Waikiki.

Currently, we are looking for one male and one female college student to serve as interns this summer. The interns will experience working with various visitor industry nonprofit organizations. Students studying travel industry management, business and Hawaiian studies/language are encouraged to apply. Call 628-6373 or email For more about NaHHA, please visit

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