Updated: November 30, 2023
Last summer, national television travel host, Peter Greenberg spent several days on Kaua‘i producing an episode of The Travel Detective: Hidden Gems, which airs on public television stations around the country. The program has begun airing and is the latest to focus national attention on regenerative tourism.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell met with Greenberg and his production team at Hāʻena State Park and explained how DSP and community partners re-imagined visitation to the popular park, which is also the gateway to the adjacent Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park.
“Public land managers are looking at solutions to curbing what has been called, over-tourism. We are grateful for and need the national media to help tell the global visitor industry there’s a new normal. Make your preparations before you come to Hawai‘i,” Cottrell said.
The Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau sponsored several FAM (media familiarization) trips for nationally recognized travel journalists in 2021 and again this year. In addition to the PBS coverage, writers for USA Today, Parade, and Travel and Leisure have produced or are preparing stories on the adaptive management at Hāʻena. Reservations for parking, shuttles, and entrance has reduced numbers there and on the Kalalau Trail from as high as 3,000 people each day to 900. Hawai‘i residents continue to have free access into all the parks and do not have to make reservations.
Hāʻena State Park is one of three (Diamond Head State Monument and Waiʻānapanapa State Park) that now require reservations for out-of-state visitors. Just last week, the Board of Land and Natural Resources approved a second, one-year-long revocable permit for Hui Maka’ainana o Makana to manage visitors and lo’i kalo at the park. It is the community group that helped lead the new management paradigm at the Hāʻena and Nāpali parks.
Chipper Wichman, one of the original founders of the group said, “We created the hui back in 1999 to really create a mechanism for us to be able to take care of this sacred landscape. We had a vision to empower the community to help take care of this area, as it was crying out for care. We wanted to restore the integrity of the land and build a relationship with the DLNR so our community view would be recognized, and we’d be allowed to co-manage the area with the Division of State Parks. That is one component of regenerative tourism.”
It’s one Greenberg says is important and can be modeled worldwide at other natural, scenic, and cultural sites that have or are experiencing over-visitation.
“The problem we have on a global-scale is entitlement. People think they’re entitled to visit a place and do whatever they want. They’re entitled to be responsible. And once that happens, then they can be entitled to have a great experience. Community management has come into play, not necessarily as a matter of regulating, but as a matter of educating. Once you do that, the regulation takes care of itself,” Greenberg feels.
A New Day at Hāʻena, is the phrase that was used after the park underwent significant improvements after historical flooding in 1999 and led to the creation of the reservation and shuttle system, and parking controls and limitations. The re-imagining of tourism also underwent tweaks and further consideration during and after park closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cottrell concluded, “There is no one recipe on how to manage sensitive cultural and natural resources and a fluctuating visitor industry. We have shown however that by being innovative and trying to reduce the impacts to park neighbors and rural communities, it empowers them to help us in managing these once hidden, but now highly sought-after gems. There are a lot of moving parts to work with and that’s the adaptation part.”
The Travel Detective: Hidden Gems, began airing on PBS stations last month. Currently PBS Hawai‘i (KHET) does not broadcast the show.
Watch The Travel Detective: Hidden Gems of Kaua‘i: https://schedule.wttw.com/episodes/570838/Travel-Detective/Hidden-Gems-of-Kauai/?tp=bdbf98e4-3ea1-4818-bb29-29c100f8c900