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Social media posts with tourists behaving badly prompt new calls for visitor education

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Following a string of social media posts documenting tourists behaving badly, there’s a push to revive an old visitor education campaign called the Pono Pledge.

The pledge informs visitors of general safety precautions and cultural awareness.

Over the past couple weeks, social media has been inundated with photos and videos of tourists harassing endangered animals like green sea turtles and monk seals. One man was even photographed atop the King Kamehameha statue on the Big Island.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green says the inappropriate and often illegal activity has gotten out of hand.

“These large numbers (of visitors) are hard to manage,” he said.

“So we really need tourists to be very mindful when you have a small place, Hawaii’s very small ― and (has) a large number of travelers ― you cannot be disrespectful to the host culture.”

He says he got the idea for the pledge from the Hawaii Island Visitor’s Bureau. He wants tourists to read it and sign it, and adds it should be accompanied by a PSA aired on the plane.

The pledge says:

I pledge to be pono (righteous) in Hawaii.

I will mindfully seek wonder, but not wander where I do not belong.

I will not defy death for breathtaking photos, trespass or venture beyond safety.

I will malama (care for) land and sea, and admire wildlife only from afar.

I will not take what is not mine, leaving lava rocks and sand as originally found.

I will heed ocean conditions, never turning my back to the Pacific.

When rain falls ma uka (inland), I will remain high above ground, out of rivers and streams.

I will embrace Hawaii’s aloha spirit, as it embraces me.

Lawe i ka maʻalea i kuʻonoʻono.

“Take wisdom and make it deep.”

He says he sent a memo to tourism officials about it more than a month ago.

“Just minimal response so far,” Green said.

Danny Casler, who heads up a community Facebook page called My Kailua, says he supports the pledge. In addition to local news, the My Kailua feed is often filled with posts about ill-mannered or ill-informed visitors.

“It’s something that has long been needed,” said Casler, referring to the pledge.

“I think education is the no. 1 thing we should be focused on. From the moment these guys get on the plane, to the second they get to their rental car and the final hit should be at their hotel. “

But Jay Talwar, chief marketing officer at the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, says there’s already a lot of messaging out there.

“The island of Hawaii has a pledge, as does the island of Kauai and the County of Maui,” Talwar said.

Early last year, the Honolulu Council also approved the Keep Hawaii, Hawaii pledge proposed by Councilmember Kymberly Pine. But it’s unclear if it was implemented.

With that said, Talwar says the tourism industry say they’re on board with doing more.

“We’re all for that,” he said.

Copyright 2021 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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