Does Hawaii want tourists or not? It’s impermanent.
We’re still trying to work through this together; Hawaii visitors and residents alike. Still, we can’t escape this topic in the news, and what’s recently come up on our radar is an Oahu woman who has repeatedly asked visitors to stay away from Hawaii. There are no easy answers to the question posed in today’s title, but here are some thoughts.
Inconsistent: Changing frequently, especially in relation to one’s loyalty, interests, or affections.
What reminded me of it was Native Hawaiian Lily Hi’ilani Okimura, an Oahu resident who is popular on social media and has 86,000 TikTok followers. She asks visitors not to come to Hawaii.
That’s superimposed with this comment from one of our readers (Joy) who said, “…we’re not authorized. We would never harm the people or animals of this beautiful country. But we feel like we are treated like that by people who don’t like tourists. I wish we would go to the Caymans where we are welcomed with open arms. Aloha.”
In addition, most people want to go on holiday here and escape from everyday life. While caring for Hawaii, they also want to enjoy the weather, sea and lifestyle of the islands as a getaway. And the advantage for us is that the visitors make a financial contribution to all of us.
Some of Lily’s candid comments below have made global headlines.
“Many tourists treat our country like a theme park, ignoring warning signs, fenced off areas and prohibition signs that can cause damage to our environment such as erosion, vandalism and pollution.”
“Tourists will try to approach and touch monk seals and turtles on the beach, although there are several signs on our beaches warning people that they are endangered species and if they touch them they will be fined imposed.”
“When people say they should be able to visit Hawaii because it’s part of the United States, I’m telling them they don’t get the gist. Sure, you have the “right” to travel wherever you want, but do it right… Our tourism industry exploits our people and our culture. What does that say about you, ignoring all of this because, ‘What about my vacation?’”
She also says that if tourists come, they should avoid hotels and vacation rentals as they are mostly owned by non-residents. Concluding that it is better to stay with someone who already lives here in Hawaii, she suggests learning the Hawaiian language and supporting local businesses and restaurants, especially those owned by Native Hawaiians .
And finally, in her wealth of videos, she suggests that visitors pick up rubbish and not harm the environment, including picking up sand or rocks.
No one can represent Hawaii in this discussion. It is not so easy.
While Lily is very outspoken and highly visible, she doesn’t represent Hawaii. Nobody does.
It’s complicated, to be sure. We propose that at least two main factors play a role. The first is a growing dissatisfaction with the rampant Hawaii tourism that has persisted for years. And second, the decline in tourism during COVID changed everyone’s perspective, both tourists and residents of Hawaii. What followed was the lightning-fast tourism recovery that was supposed to take years but instead seemed to only take months.
Visitors and residents: You can’t lump the two together.
We know that when most visitors choose Hawaii, they simply want to get away from it all. Others have more cultural interests, as TikToker mentions.
Many of their points are valid. Our tourism-dependent industry markets Hawaii as a theme park paradise. That is changing, albeit very slowly. As we have already said, this misperception prepares everyone for disappointment. Hawaii is being overrun by tourism. There is no doubt about it.
Hawaiians also have a range of views on tourism, and Lilis is just one of them. Keep in mind that tourism here affects everyone’s life in one way or another. And not everyone wants to replace that with nothing.
Hawaii is in the United States, but it isn’t either.
Since Hawaii is a state and you can fly here easily and relatively inexpensively, this can lead to the misperception that Hawaii is the same as the US mainland, which is definitely not the case. That despite the fact that your phone, your health insurance, your money and your prescriptions are valid here. And frankly, that’s confusing.
Lily is right that Hawaii’s whole sphere isn’t visitor satisfaction, although we don’t mind that either, and we think most people here want visitors to enjoy Hawaii while also appreciating the things we love too.
We also hope that visitors will be kind and generous when they are here, and we’re not talking about money. Aloha begets Aloha, as you’ve said countless times before in the comments.
As a reminder, a study conducted a few years ago showed that Hawaiians’ attitudes towards tourism had not changed dramatically. When asked about their overall perception of the state’s tourism industry, approximately 1,600 Hawaiians surveyed gave an average rating of 8 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Lily was also right about the way we treat our natural resources and wildlife. Sometimes tourism is at odds with this. In particular, monk seals and turtles must be uninterrupted. We can personally attest to the fact that we have often seen people get too close for photos, not respecting boundaries that are there to protect these important creatures in life and mythology.
Please also add your thoughts.
Most of us who live here are directly or indirectly related to tourism. We value visitors who appreciate what Hawaii has to offer, including our native culture and our unique ways. It’s never perfect here, but behind the umbrella in this Mai Tai drink, it’s real. Come and enjoy and find out what makes Hawaii unique.
Stay tuned for our thoughts on how you might fit into Hawaii as a visitor. coming this week
Comments are closed.