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Campaign calls on Hawaii island tourists to be respectful

FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2015, file photo, Keenin Ide, left, of Hilo, Hawaii, and Medea Yankova, of Sofia, Bulgaria, sit near Hilo Bay in Hilo, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File)

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — The Big Island visitors bureau and Hawaii County have launched a campaign that aims to create a more conscientious tourism industry on the Big Island.

The Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau Executive Director Ross Birch and county Managing Director Will Okabe presented the new “Pono Pledge” at a Thursday event, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

The campaign will remind tourists to treat the island and its people with respect.

It includes a nine-line mantra affirming that, while people can appreciate the beauty of the island, they will not do so in a way that disrupts the environment and community or endangers people, Birch said. Campaign materials will be found at tourism-adjacent industries that partner with the program, such as hotels, he said.

Visitors are invited to sign the pledge online and share it via social media, further spreading awareness.

The campaign is modeled after similar programs in Iceland and Palau.

The campaign was originally scheduled to be unveiled in June, but it was delayed because of the Kilauea volcano eruption in lower Puna, Birch said.

A change in tourism on the island was the inspiration for the campaign, he said.

“Ten years ago, there were 1.66 million visitors to the island. There were 1.72 million last year,” Birch said. “There hasn’t been a big change in the number of visitors, but they’re a different kind of visitor.”

He thinks the evolution of technology might be causing visitors to be less conscious of the environmental impact their presence has on the island.

“An example I’ll use is Waipio Valley,” Birch said. “The lookout at Waipio Valley has limited parking spaces and access, but it gets more than 1,000 visitors a day, when in the past it got about 200 a day.”

Birch is hoping to get airlines to adopt the campaign.

His goal is for 10,000 people take the pledge within the campaign’s first year.