The state has begun using the Hawaiian language to greet arriving and departing travelers at all state airports. That same audio message is contained in a beautifully rendered high-definition Hawaiian language video message created for Hawaii-bound airlines to play in the cabin upon arrival. International arrivals from Japan, Korea, and China can subtitle the message as well.
The timing of the messages seems ripe as the state positions itself for some high-profile media coverage associated with November’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Honolulu.
The bilingual greetings emphasize Hawaii’s native culture and differentiate it from other sun, sand and surf destinations. For speakers and proponents of the Hawaiian language, this should be good news. The service is appealing and instills a sense of pride for island residents and winks at the prospect of Hawaiian language growth and employment opportunities.
If we acknowledge the critical role the Hawaiian culture plays in fueling the visitor industry, then the importance of keeping the Hawaiian language vibrant and in use by residents should be prioritized and looked upon as a meaningful investment that supports the revitalization of the native language and long-term health of Hawaii’s economy.
Placing an economic value in learning and using the Hawaiian language can increase the number of speakers. Aside from the important cultural, personal or scholarly reasons to learn Hawaiian, there has been little economic reason to learn it for Hawaii’s job market. Yet Hawaiian is an official language of the state of Hawaii, along with English.
Communicating in the Hawaiian language is a high-touch communication experience for the visitor that fosters interaction with the people of Hawaii, which is commonly cited as a main reason why visitors return to Hawaii.
The beauty of the Hawaiian language imbues the experience with the spirit of the people and land; no marketing dollars can rival that.
Hawaiian language adds value to the visitor experience and makes it Hawaii’s distinct capability, or "it" factor, in the global tourism market.
Money spent on teaching and reinforcing the Hawaiian language in the state is money well spent and is just as critical as the millions spent yearly by the HTA on advertising and promotion.
Hawaii businesses that rely directly on visitor dollars for their survival, such as airlines, hotels, transportation services, and food establishments, should seize upon the opportunity to set their product or service apart.
The expected increase in arrivals from China and South Korea are harbingers for these businesses to not only establish competencies in Mandarin and Korean language but to also "ho‘ohawai‘i" — make their service or product Hawaiian by using the Hawaiian language.
Government can encourage the use of the Hawaiian language in commerce by creating economic incentives such as pay differentials for public employees who perform tasks and service to the public in Hawaiian, or tax breaks for employers who hire a certain number of Hawaiian-speaking employees.
Creating a demand for Hawaiian-speaking employees in the sector will increase the number of Hawaiian-language speakers in the state.
An increase in the number of jobs that have fluency in the Hawaiian language as a minimum or desirable requirement for employment would be a powerful motivator for Hawaii’s workforce to use and market their language abilities.
The new policy for Hawaii airports is a very public show for the support of the Hawaiian language.
Lets hope it’s not just a passing marketing fancy but instead a catalyst for increased use of the language by Hawaii’s residents and workforce.