By Ereti Tekabaia
Being part of the 2019 Pacific Islands Tourism Professional Fellow program Spring Cohort is indeed a life-changing experience to me, personally and professionally. But being with Keawe Adventure for one month is an even more rewarding and insightful contribution to my professional career development.
As part of the Tourism Pro-Fellow program, I started working at Keawe Adventures on a 4-week work placement, which will end tomorrow. These four weeks are a worthwhile learning opportunity for me. I am a government official giving advisory assistance to local our operators, and whoever interested to start a tourism-related business back in Kiritimati Island. But being placed at Keawe Adventures is like I am being put in the shoes of a tour operator to observe and learn first hand how a tour company actually operates. Keawe Adventures is a fitting exemplar for our tour operators given that it conducts small group and customized tours for a high-end market- an appropriate market for Kiribati given its smallness and environmental context.
I am fortunate to join two of their tours – Pearl Harbor with Makani Christensen, the owner, and Circle the Island with Nanci. I have visited Hawaii before but this is my first time to visit Pearl Harbor and experience a full island tour. These tours are exceptionally interesting and informative with the knowledgeable guides – they are well versed not only on the sites but the stories and history.
My placement is not only about office works and tours. I am very privileged to have a meeting with Mr Mike McCartney, the Director of Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, and Chris Tatum, the Head of Hawaii Tourism Authority. This is a very rare opportunity that I would not have had, if I am not placed at Keawe Adventures. Mr Keoni Downing is very instrumental in the meeting with Mr McCartney as he was the one arranging with him. I am so grateful and honored that Mr McCartney and Mr Tatum could allow some of their precious time from their busy schedule to meet and share some of what Hawaii had gone through and its success in tourism.
In addition to those marvelous experiences, Makani, through Kathryn, the Office Assistant, made sure that my Individual Project for this Profellow program is on the right track. Kathryn is a lovely colleague that she always makes sure that I enjoy my works at the office.
In a matter of day I will not be seen at Keawe Adventure office, and soon after I will be leaving East West Center campus, and back with my work colleagues and families in Kiritimati Island. But I had acquired abundance of valuable knowledge and lessons on Hawaii tourism through the work programs Keawe Adventures engaged me in.
This work placement story of mine will not be possible without the endless assistance and support of Mr Scott Kroeker, the Interim Senior Manager of Pacific Islands Development Program. Thanks to him, he had perfectly placed me at Keawe Adventures where I was enriched with wonderful experience, knowledge, and opportunities that I cannot wait to use, and implement where appropriate back in Kiritimati Island. At Keawe Adventures, I am indebted to Makani for making my placement at his company beneficial and useful for application in Kiribati. The office works, the tours, and the meetings are, and will be, definitely enhancing my capacity to perform my responsibilities as a Principal Tourism Officer.
I am so fortunate and blessed to be part of this Pacific Island Tourism Fellow program and be part of Keawe Adventures team for one month. Thus it is very appropriate for me, as a Kiribati custom, to return the favor with our Kiribati traditional blessing of Te Mauri, (Health), Te Raoi (Peace), and Te Tabomoa (Prosperity) to those who have directly and indirectly contribute to the success of this work placement, particularly to my friends and colleagues at Keawe Adventures.