An interesting comment in part prompted us to write something we had been wanting to revisit with you. It went like this from Robbos:
Thanks for the easily-digestible view of the HTA’s plans and problems. A key issue seems to be that many tourism-reliant businesses market the entire state as a paradisiacal theme park. This leaves tourists disappointed when locals don’t act like theme park employees, and locals are insulted to be treated as such. Hawai’i isn’t Six Flags; it is a unique combination of cultures that over-tourism is killing.
And regular Pam said, “this is one wild ride here. As a long-time local, I can tell you that there’s nothing that will make everyone happy. People seem to want to be miserable these days. It breaks my heart to see this lack of Aloha and discord. There’s nowhere on Earth like Hawaii. If you don’t want to come, go elsewhere. Just stop tearing us apart.”
After the drop in tourism during COVID, Hawaii has rebounded at the speed of light that caught everyone off guard and is set to soon reach a record number of visitors. We know that most visitors want an escape from everyday life when they visit Hawaii, but when that intersects with the residents who live here, sometimes both groups need to take a deep breath and seek common ground.
Hawaii is authentic.
Hawaii is about people, aloha, nature, and our beautiful, extraordinary environment. When you visit, you are to the most isolated islands in the world for an incredible journey from everyday life. Hawaii is unique and while making no judgment, simply isn’t comparable to Mexico, the Caribbean, or other destinations. And, as an aside, being domestic, a nice bonus is that everything in Hawaii works transparently, including your phone, health insurance, currency and prescriptions, as examples.
The Hawaiian Archipelago, also called the Sandwich Islands, is a fabulous collection of more than 130 landmasses stretched over 1,600 miles in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, from the north (Kure Atoll) to the south (Big Island). Hawaii, of course, takes its name from the largest landmass in the state, the Big Island of Hawaii.
Hawaii isn’t an amusement park.
People who live here can’t be seen in the same way as Disney employees. Their raison d’etre isn’t the satisfaction of visitors, although we certainly do hope that visitors appreciate and enjoy what we too love, respectfully.
This isn’t a Polynesian Cultural Center experience either, where it’s all manufactured and about creating a park for visitors, wherein the employees are all service-oriented, friendly, and smiling.
Amusement parks aren’t real, unlike Hawaii, which is home to its residents. Hawaii hasn’t been arranged specifically for visitors, and instead you’ll find yourself in our real-world island home.
We live here and it’s our lives that visitors impact. We want visitors to be kind and generous when here, and not just monetarily. Rather, we hope visitors will be both grateful and curious, and interested in our culture. And we know that visitors want the feeling of Aloha returned to them after flying great distances across the Pacific and spending hard-earned money.
Before Rob moved here, it was the positive interaction with locals that enhanced his visit. It felt authentic, while he was always envious they got to live in Hawaii. Now he sees things from both perspectives, having lived here for over twenty years.
When we started this post, it clearly hit a button.
You have already responded in over 900 comments below. When this started, travel was still not back to normal the way it is today. Since the return of tourism, so many of you have commented on the tension felt between visitors and residents in Hawaii. So, your comments, including Robbos’, got us thinking it was time to revisit this discussion.
A regular visitor from Arizona, who’s followed Beat of Hawaii for years asked, “are visitors really hated by most locals? Are the majority of visitors as horrible and rude as I’m reading on Facebook? There were so many locals making so many claims of how much they hate visitors.” Sometimes visitors feel like they can’t catch a break in relation to Hawaii travel. And residents have their own similar take.
As we re-open the topic today and continue the dialog between visitors and those living here, we ask that all comments be respectful (or they won’t be published).
Also, do please check out the two short embedded videos. One is targeted to those who live in Hawaii and the other to those who visit. We suggest that everyone watch both videos. Then read on and add your comments about how you are feeling.
HTA Video Creates Local Awareness of Taking Care of Visitors.
The fact that Hawaii felt these videos were needed, spoke to issues in the air for a long time. The campaign was called, “Take Care of Tourism. It’s A Family Business.” It’s a good reminder to everyone here. Watch and see if you agree.
With Hawaii tourism on again, there are about 10 visitors for each resident.
Face it, that’s a lot for any visitor destination. With peak tourism’s return comes much more traffic and crowding. Hawaii is quickly getting back on track to welcome over 10 million annual visitors. That, in relation to our total population of just 1.4 million. There’s no doubt about it; tourism is and will remain far and away the biggest economic driver for Hawaii. And tourism touches all of us who live here in Hawaii.
How do residents feel?
A study conducted a few years ago, showed there hadn’t been any dramatic shift in how residents felt about Hawaii tourism. Asked to rate their overall perception of the state’s tourism industry, about 1,600 Hawaii residents surveyed generated an average ranking of 8 on a scale of 1–10, with 10 being extremely favorable.
Are tourists well behaved? And are residents well behaved?
Coming to Hawaii isn’t like driving between states on the mainland where you can have a quick getaway by car. When visitors come to Hawaii, most stay a week or longer, incur great expense to come here, and invest significantly. That also means a greater impact on our resources.
Hawaii culture and our local ways are very important to those of us here, and we love it when visitors are interested in learning more and showing respect. That’s most of you, we know. But not always, and that can cause conflicts.
For example, when Kauai created a permit system for the North Shore, it caused both confusion and untold upset from visitors who felt they should be able to drive and park anywhere, anytime they wanted. What Kauai was trying to do was preserve the environment for the future and the land that is so precious to us. So issues like this create problems and misunderstandings at times. And frankly, communication has never been one of Hawaii’s strong points.
Another example of culture and tourism not being in sync can be found in the ocean and on our beaches. We’re thinking of monk seals and turtles who need to rest on the sand and not be interrupted. How many times have we seen people get too close for photos and not respect boundaries which are there to protect these important creatures in life and mythology?
Recent discussions about visitor charges including proposed Hawaii State Park visitor fees, are also controversial.
So respect is important and it goes both ways. Residents need to respect tourists who have made a choice to spend their hard-earned money to be here and who add significantly to our economy. Tourists must respect both Hawaii’s culture and our local ways of life. When both happen, the Hawaiian rainbow shines brightly on all.
Please step into our world.
We live here. When you come here to visit, we’re happy to share our ways of life, when you’re open to it. This is the real world, and we have our ways, traditions, and cultures. Hawaii isn’t perfect and we don’t try to pretend that it is. Hawaii is real. Yes, there is poverty, you’ll find homeless, and as you’ve noted in comments, there’s trash and dumped cars and other things you may not appreciate. But there’s a backdrop of exceptional beauty and a magical feeling we all have being here.
Hawaii wasn’t created just for visitors.
At the same time, we welcome great visitors who appreciate what we have to share. We live here amid nature, which we all need to protect and cherish. Please join us and treat Hawaii as a jewel and help respect and protect it for all of us and for future generations.
Time to Comment!
We want to hear from you. Remember to be respectful. How are you feeling about Hawaii now, as a visitor or as a resident?