Polynesian Cultural Center sees surge in holiday tourists

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    Concerns about decreased tourism and job reductions at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Hawaii are lifting, said Karla Talakai Lombard, customer service representative at the center.

    The number of visitors to the center had declined in the months following Sept. 11, which has jeopardized the jobs of hundreds of BYU-Hawaii students.

    However, during the Christmas holidays, the number of tourists climbed “back up to high counts,” Lombard said.

    Lombard also said that the center’s CEO held a meeting to lay out a plan to protect the jobs of students, and that the center is now running at full status.

    Labor missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints built the PCC in 1963 on the Northeast shore of Oahu.

    The PCC is a non-profit organization that gives jobs to hundreds of students at BYU-Hawaii to help pay for their education.

    The Center also seeks to preserve the cultural heritage of the Polynesian islands.

    The PCC consists of seven villages, representing the peoples of Samoa, New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, Tahiti, Marquesas and Tonga.

    At each of the villages, natives of the different cultures tell stories, perform dances and display skills used in everyday life.

    Some of the workers show tourists how they create clothing from bark, weave baskets with leaves and climb four-story trees with their bare feet.

    BYU student Channy La’ulu grew up near the Cultural Center, where her parents met while working there as students.

    La’ulu has seen the educational and cultural benefits that the PCC has brought to students who are involved with the center.

    “Their culture is what is helping them gain an education,” La’ulu said.

    La’ulu also said the cultural exchange not only happens between the Polynesian people and tourists, but even more so between students of different cultures.

    Janielle Christensen, the artistic director of BYU’s Living Legends, recently returned from the PCC. Christensen said she also has watched students benefit from the cultural diversity at the center and come together as one people, despite their different cultures.

    Christensen said during the night show, cultures of all seven islands “come together as a people of Polynesia to present that show.”

    The PCC provides a means of obtaining an education for hundreds of students, and also provides an invaluable educational system in itself.

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