How This Luxury Resort Embraces and Promotes Local Culture

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Disney's Aulani guests are immersed in the cultural experience

Credit: Disney

Disney has often focused on celebrating cultures from around the world, most notably with EPCOT, the Walt Disney World Park that features 11 different countries around the World Showcase. Disney is also well-known for the theming of their resorts and hotels, especially the culturally themed ones such as Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

aulani luau
Credit: ITM Rebekah B.

One of Disney’s most immersive resorts is the Disney Aulani Resort in Hawai’i. Similar to Disney’s Polynesian, the Resort is a themed and fully immersive Hawaiian experience. Walt Disney vacationed on the islands often and was appreciative of the culture, taking inspiration from the tropical islands for his Enchanted Tiki Room attraction in both Disneyland and, eventually, Walt Disney World.

When the island was first colonized, there was a massive effort to eradicate the native languages and customs. Citizens were forced to learn English, with it being the primary language spoken in schools and across the islands. In the 1970s, a group of students decided to fight back and created a group to learn and reteach the language. While the primary language is still English, the Hawaiian language is once again commonly spoken thanks to these efforts.

Aulani mickey
Credit: Disney

While there have been some concerns about Disney’s Resort in Hawai’i bringing in tourists and destroying the native areas, Aulani Disney ambassador Kanoa Kawai is quick to defend the resort.

Rather than a tropical Disney vacation spot, Guests at Aulani are treated to a much more cultural experience. Instead of churros and popcorn, guests can dine on local food and snacks. To work at the Resort’s bar, the Olelo Room, employees must be fluent in the Hawaiian language. This is partly due to creating a completely immersive environment but also to help promote, preserve, and celebrate the Hawaiian language and culture.

aulani 2
Credit: Disney

In addition to ensuring that employees are fluent, the resort offers weekly lessons to teach the language to other resort staff. Although to most Guests, Disney’s Aulani Resort is just a relaxing vacation spot, to the locals, it’s a working effort to preserve the rich language and culture that was once on the verge of going extinct.

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