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On Hawaii’s island of Kauai, The Sheraton Kauai Resort is offering tourists a chance to meet local residents by volunteering with the Sierra Club, the Kauai Monk Seal Watch, Save Kauai and the National Tropical Gardens. Vacationers actually are taking exploration walks with the Sierra Club Kauai, participating in beach cleanups and marine debris removal from the reefs with Save Kauai, contributing to the preservation and knowledge of tropical plants and ecosystems at the National Tropical Botanicals Garden and participating in monk seal watch counts.
On Maui, guests of The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort can participate in a Community Cultural Awareness Day and several community projects, including Taro Planting in Honokohau Valley.
Hawaii Forest and Trail, a Big-Island based adventure tour company, offers visitors the chance to help clear invasive plant species from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Visitor volunteers gain a greater sense of ownership and understanding of Hawaii’s threatened ecosystems.
And on Oahu, visitors who stay at the Outrigger Waikiki or Outrigger Reef and participate in a volunteer whale count to receive an eco tote full of local snacks as a gift of thanks.
All are manifestations of a new visitor industry trend called VolunTourism, in which some visitors to Hawaii are leaving some of their own aloha behind when their vacations are done.
There’s nothing remarkable about working hard for a good cause, but it’s not everybody’s idea of something to do on a vacation. But more and more tourists in Hawaii and elsewhere have decided that volunteering is how they most like to spend their free time. The Travel Industry Association of America has reported that a surprising 24 percent of all travelers are interested in taking a volunteer or service-based vacation and that percentage is increasing.
Here in Hawaii, vacationers can find plenty of opportunities to give back aloha to their kamaaina hosts and become champions of the state’s precious land and water resources. There’s a little “take” to balance all that “giving,” too. Some hotels and resorts are offering “VolunTourism” packages.
According to the Hawaii Convention Center, large meeting groups often see volunteer work as a necessary component of their travel experience. Attendees apparently want to participate in more than just the conference; they want to make a connection with the community. Groups have participated in things such as blood drives, food donor programs and building projects. Some have even gone into the community on their own in search of more grassroots efforts.
When VolunTourism began, people were picking destinations and then looking for good deeds to perform while they were there. Now, more and more are looking to the quality of the projects in order to determine their destinations.
It seems even beautiful, pristine Hawaii has an abundance of such projects, and a growing number of visitors seem to appreciate that there is a h3er opportunity for volunteer conservation projects in Hawaii than there is in most other parts of the U.S. mainland.
If VolunTourism appeals to you, go to the Hawaii-Aloha Web site home page (hawaii-aloha.com) and select an agent, or call 1-800-843-8771. We’ll hook you up with organizations that will welcome your spirit, and give you information about VolunTourism Packages