How a vacation to Hawaii can be relaxing for tourists – and harmful to its residents

How a vacation to Hawaii can be relaxing for tourists - and harmful to its residents

The Hawaii most tourists see is one of azure waters and towering resorts, of “aloha” and “ohana” and hula. But as it exists now, the powerful tourism industry dictates the lives of Native Hawaiians, often for the worse.

The tourism industry in Hawaii powers its state revenue, but that reliance on tourism has resulted in Native Hawaiians getting priced out of their homes, climate change wreaking havoc on the natural landscape, and a lack of respect for the 50th state that is also the ancestral land of more than half a million people.

“I think that it is too easy for people to visit places like Hawaii,” Kajihiro said. “It conditions visitors to feel entitled.”

The industry must change to improve the futures of Native Hawaiians, Kajihiro told CNN. He’s one of several residents who have worked to educate visitors and return some elements of Hawaiian culture to the people from whom it originated. If visitors to Hawaii decenter themselves and instead take with them respect and a willingness to learn — or choose not to visit at all — then Hawaii may be preserved for the people who have called it home for centuries, activists say.

For many residents, living in Hawaii is no vacation

Tourism is Hawaii’s largest single source of private capital, per the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, it remains incredibly lucrative: In April alone, visitors to Hawaii spent over $1 billion in the islands, according to a state report marking the recovery of tourism since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But what’s profitable for Hawaii’s economy can negatively impact the lives of Native Hawaiians and yearlong residents. To combat drought conditions, residents last year were asked to reduce their water consumption or face a fine while large resorts continued to use far more water. There are millions more annual visitors than there are permanent residents — in 2021, there were more than 6.7 million visitors compared to 1.4 million residents — which can cause carbon emissions to surge and overuse of its beaches, hiking trails and other natural wonders. Hawaii has even been called the “extinction capital of the world” for the number of species who’ve gone extinct or are at high risk of dying out.

It also has the highest cost of living in the nation, partly due to the state having to import around 90% of its goods. Its housing market is one of the most expensive in the country, ProPublica and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported in 2020, and with a large demand for land and a limited amount of it, Native Hawaiians can spend decades waiting to reclaim ancestral land, leading some to move from the islands.

“Tourism normalizes and conceals the current dystopian reality experienced by many Kānaka Maoli and the poor immigrant communities in Hawaii,” Kajihiro told CNN. (Kānaka Maoli is the Hawaiian-language term for Native Hawaiians.)

To empower Native Hawaiians and return some of their rights, the tourism industry needs to change, beginning with its ethos, Kajihiro said.

‘DeTours’ show the real history of Hawaii beyond the beach

In an effort to reclaim the histories of Hawaii and educate residents and visitors about the impacts of colonization, militarization and tourism, Kajihiro created the Hawai’i DeTour Project. The program, which he runs with lifelong activist Terrilee Kekoʻolani, aims to “interject a more critical historical account of Hawaii” in hopes that it’ll start conversations about social responsibility and create solidarity with social justice and environmental activist efforts in Hawaii.

Continue reading…

This is an excerpt from an article by Scottie Andrew originally published by CNN.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Sustainable Tourism Crash Course -spot_img

Useful resources