By Carlyn Abramo                                                                                                                                                                             Mililani High School

Hospitality extends so much further than an industry. Through the HTA-supported LEI program on April 5, 2013, I was able to learn and experience what that industry does for others, and how important it is to Hawai’i.

Waking up and driving all the way into town didn’t sound like the ideal morning for a field trip. I had already learned the basics of hotel operations during a sixth grade work study. But upon arriving, we were given individual lei and delicious malasadas. Maybe this field trip was going to be different.

And it was. Listening to the many speakers and taking their advice was truly inspiring. Not only had they grabbed our attention, but they also focused us on our future and our ability to impact Hawai’i. I was excited to find out which hotel I would be going to for the afternoon. However, I wasn’t looking forward to being stuck with a group of people I had never met before. At first, it was a little awkward on our bus ride to the Waikiki Beach Marriott, but by the time we arrived, we knew each other’s names and were starting to discuss how we had gotten the privilege to attend the program.

Eating a fancy three course meal and learning the ins and outs of the hospitality industry simultaneously was actually very exciting. I got to speak to the hotel’s head of sales and marketing, a field I have taken an interest in. I had never thought of the possibility of working for a hotel through marketing. In fact, I had no idea how many departments it took to run a property. The hotel staff was so kind and generous and full of the aloha spirit. It was evident that they loved their work and they loved to serve.

The biggest thing I will take from this experience is how rewarding it is to serve others with aloha. Even the speakers back at the convention center made that clear. Hospitality is not just about increasing Hawaii’s economy or showing off our beautiful paradise. Hospitality is the genuine passion to serve.

I had never really considered working in the hospitality industry, but the LEI program has opened my eyes to see how important it is to Hawaii and how being a part of it as many rewards. Not only do you get to travel and work with people, but there are associate benefits as well. I have personally worked with many volunteer projects and organizations, and have a passion within myself for helping others. Maybe I’ll find myself speaking to a group of eager high school students in the future. I also strongly believe in the spirit of aloha and how it attracts others to the islands, while powering Hawaii’s livelihood. LEI was worthwhile experience that I would love to attend again. I believe it has the potential to inspire the leader in every explorer who attends.