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From May 20 to 25, I was fortunate enough to visit the island of Oahu with ASTA’s Young Professional Society (YPS), a branch of ASTA dedicated to travel consultants under the age of 40. Being that it was my first YPS retreat, I wasn't sure what to expect. After five days of intense immersion training on Oahu, I was more than impressed. Getting together to learn about what each of us does to succeed in the industry was a great opportunity. We talked not only about marketing strategies and social media, but also of ways to encourage additional young professionals to join the travel industry. We agreed that our industry should provide resources that show the younger generation that they can pursue a career as a travel professional.
In full disclosure, one of the main reasons why I joined YPS was for the retreat to Oahu. I had never been to the islands, and I was looking forward to hanging out at the beach and eating fresh pineapple in the sun. But, as any travel agent who has completed destination training knows, there isn’t a whole lot of down time on these trips. I can honestly say that because of YPS, the Hawaii Visitors & Conventions Bureau and the Oahu Visitors Bureau, I will never look at the islands in the same way. The Hawaiian people and their culture have opened my eyes to the diversity of the Hawaiian Islands. I left inspired by their pride in their culture and history.
We also participated in some cultural education and a voluntourism work project. We visited one of the last fish farms in Hawaii, Paepae O He eia Fishpond, and were taught about aquaculture which I learned could date back to some of the first Polynesian settlers of the Hawaiian Islands.
Our voluntourism work project included a stop at Kako o Oiwi, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to the Hawaiian people and culture. It is in the process of restoring the currently fallow land in Heeia uli into a working agricultural landscape. Our YPS group volunteered to get knee-deep in the mud and pull weeds. This had to be the best part of the trip — not only was everyone laughing, falling down and throwing mud at each other, but we were helping the Hawaiian people, Oahu itself and the environment. It felt good to take part in a project that gave back to the community.
All in all, this training couldn’t have been any better. To take away as much as I did —regarding Hawaii, the Hawaiian people, the culture and the travel industry — made joining the trip — and, by extension, joining YPS — a very worthwhile investment.