From Aloha to Arrivederci: Are Europe's Open Tourist Arms Closing Doors in Hawaii?

From Aloha to Arrivederci: Are Europe’s Open Tourist Arms Closing Doors in Hawaii?

As the sun sets increasingly less brightly on Hawaii’s long unparalleled visitor allure—courtesy of steep vacation costs and visitors not feeling welcome, many more of you are instead setting your sights on old-world charm and highly competitive pricing found in Europe.

But what happens when everyone seems to have the same idea?

Today, we navigate between bustling medieval streets and tranquil beaches, from a continent grappling with over-popularity to iconic Hawaii beaches.

The great shift: chasing visitor value beyond Hawaii.

Recent findings from the state’s research arm, UHERO, pointed out a stark reality: despite somewhat more stable room rates, Hawaii’s luxury vacations may no longer be matching the expected value, prompting Hawaii visitors to look elsewhere.

And where are Hawaii visitors going?

The European Travel Commission reports that destinations like Serbia, Turkey, Malta, Portugal, and Spain are witnessing record tourist arrivals, achieving highest ever visitor numbers. These spots offer the lure of a good deal and mild winters—an irresistible, year-round combo.

Now as the peak of summer travel hits, Europe, countries including France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland, to name just a handful, are becoming overwhelmed by American tourists. We know, because we came here to better understand shifting global travel phenomenon now in process. And what we found are Americans in droves, from old to young (Gen Z), in groups, families, couples, and singles, on tours, and independently.

Europe’s welcome mat: Is it too welcoming to be sustainable?

The charm of lesser-known European locales is undeniable, as are the significantly lower travel costs that visitors are finding here compared with Hawaii.

Yet, as these destinations revel in their newfound and overwhelming popularity, the strain on local infrastructure and daily life becomes increasingly apparent. And in that way it begins to look more and more like Hawaii, replete with many of the same issues and containment plans.

Here, cafes overflow, streets are congested, American English is heard everywhere, and the greater quietude that not long ago defined Europe, risks becoming a tale of the past.

Aloha Spirit Meets European Soul.

In Hawaii, high costs are continuing to nudge visitors to reconsider their destination choices. In Europe, affordability draws them in droves. This apparent shift in traveler priorities offers us a unique vantage point as we contrast disparate destinations with all too similar problems.

Can the islands’ approach to managing visitor impact inspire European strategies or will Europe instead lead in this new arena? Clearly, both Europe and Hawaii’s open-door visitor policies are undergoing major rethinking to preserve the very culture that makes it appealing.

See Hawaii, New York, Lauterbrunnen: Can’t Live With Or Without Tourists.

European advertisement geared to USA residents.

Your recent comments on the subject.

Robert: “I love Maui, but my last big vacation was to French Polynesia. It was wonderful. The people were so sweet and kind, and the environment was beyond insanely beautiful. Expensive? Yes, but I’d do it again. I’m already saving for my next Tahiti trip and slowly learning basic French. Sorry Maui, but you sort of alienated me with fees to visit the bleeping beach…I love Maui, but its just not worth it right now. I’ll get a lot more bang for my buck elsewhere, and likely be treated better, too.”

Eva: Europe is totally overcrowded right now, especially Italy and Spain.

New commenter Chris: “I live in the SF Bay Area and have lost all desire to visit Hawaii. It used to be an “easy” destination in the sense that it was 5 hours away with no language or currency changes. But now, Hawaiians blame their entire existence on visitors. Now, we go to Europe 2 times per year and love it so much more…even though it is an 11 hour flight. We leave for Greece June 17…the concept of Aloha is a joke.”

Larry: “People go on vacation to relax and get away from stress. Being lectured about how to come to Maui (respectfully)…is turning away even long-time visitors. Meanwhile, other tropical venues and Europe are welcoming. The goose that lays the golden eggs of Maui’s economy is on life support.”

Tom: “It’s actually much affordable for me traveling back to Europe were they welcome the tourist dollar. That being said, I’d like to congratulate anyone who had a direct effect at killing the tourist industry in Hawaii.

Kazumi: “Heading for Barcelona this fall with cruise along the French coast down to northern Italy…Traveling off season, has been one way we use to mitigate our discomfort with the tourism crush.”

Mike: “We have always loved going to Maui…We were devastated to see the Lahina fire damage… and even more devastated to hear that as tourists we were unwelcome. We have decided to go to Europe this year. There is no sense going where you are not wanted. Aloha Hawaii!”

Bob: “My wife and I have been going to Hawaiian Islands for 30 years. If any one thing is discouraging us is the cost of accommodations. We went to Europe for 3 weeks for less money than the cost of 2 weeks in Hawaii.”

Sheryl: “Big difference from what other countries are doing and what Hawaii is doing. Placing a ban on future building of STRs in Florence is completely different than stripping current property owners in Hawaii...Is this a global issue? Yes, but the way the problem is being addressed is completely different. Perhaps Hawaii should take a few lessons from the “mindful” Europeans they so greatly admire.”

Looking Ahead: Sustainable global travel.

As we collectively ponder the future of global travel, it’s clear that sustainability must take center stage. Hawaii, with its delicate balance of tourism and tradition, may ultimately serve as a model for spots feeling the weight of their own popularity. It’s time for global conversations on travel—how we can wander wisely, respect our hosts, and still chase those travel horizon that beckon us.

Join the Conversation.

What’s your take on this shift in travel trends? Will you still join us in Hawaii? Have you swapped Hawaiian sands for European stones, or do you find yourself longing for the tropical embrace of the Pacific?

Drop us a comment below—let’s chart the course of travel together, with a touch of quirk and all the wisdom of the waves.

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63 thoughts on “From Aloha to Arrivederci: Are Europe’s Open Tourist Arms Closing Doors in Hawaii?”

  1. As a resident looking around at the state of everything on Maui, I don’t understand why anybody would want to visit here. I really don’t understand why anybody would want to visit the state any longer. It’s generally unpleasant, run down, and way too expensive for what you get. I’m counting down the days until I can move away from this rock. The juice ain’t worth the squeeze anymore even with owning my own house with a historically low interest rate.

  2. I was born and raised in Hawaii in the 1950s and ’60s I also worked in the hospitality industry there. I no longer live in Hawaii; leaving in the ’80s . the cost of living is too expensive, I have not been back to the Aina for over 30 years. now. I’ve worked in almost all of the major Waikiki, Hilo, and Wailea resorts, having started my culinary apprenticeship at HHVH. and working my way up to Executive Chef. working two and three jobs isn’t much of a life if you married and have children. I now live in the “9th. island” and am a retired culinary educator, and own my own home. I still have friends and family on Oahu but have seen the “aloha spirit” die and the cost of everything becomes unmanageable for so many of us who still love our “Aina” but can no longer afford to live there or visit. there are too many other, beautiful beaches and cultural and historic places that are much more affordable the my homeland, so sorry to say.

  3. Josh Green, Blangiardi and company only protect the overpriced hotels and the. Comments above should tell them a thing or two. They have been killing the STR, Their arrogance has killed tourists but they let homeless take over . Bravo

  4. This is now my second comment since it is my second week on Maui.
    Not one negative comment on the contrary everyone is thankful we are here supporting their economy.
    I cannot argue about the trip being expensive but we were prepared to spend money.
    We love coming here and will continue to come annually to Maui.
    They speak English which is my biggest obstacle in going to foreign countries.

    1. We are currently in Europe. Also we go to the BI every year. Almost everywhere people speak English. We use Google translate to read menus. Easy. Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland. Average price per night $225. Cheaper in Luxembourg and Germany.
      Even in Switzerland we can have pizza, salad, and beer forv2 for 50 f. Prices in Hawaii higher than Switzerland and then other countries way less. June beautiful wild flowers, waterfalls mild temperatures and uncrowned. We hiked and ebiked. If like to ebike there are bike paths everywhere. Ebike rental 30 e per day.
      Here’s a secret Luxembourg was fabulous.

  5. Well, with less STR’s to choose from, a reduction in the number of visitors seems appropriate. However, the government always gets their cut. It will be interesting to see how the State and Counties will tax us, to make up for the lost revenue. They won’t take it from voters (as they will get voted out of office), so this means additional taxes for on the remaining STR’s, hotels and visitors. (Maybe less so on the hotels since they lobby and contribute to politicians.) How will this all shake out?


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