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How Some Tourists are Ruining Hawaii Travel for Everyone

Since Hawaii travel reopened, have you noticed a big difference in the attitude of some visitors? We have. While the majority are among the most thoughtful and considerate, there’s a change for the worse we are definitely seeing more of.

“Revenge travel” (getting revenge on canceled travel plans during COVID) has morphed into an attitude of entitlement for some. It was creeping in long before COVID, and has since become much worse. You may have seen them too. These travelers can be demanding and have higher than reasonable expectations for their Hawaii vacations. In fact, they can ruin Hawaii travel for the rest of us. Read on for some gory, unfortunate details.

(We see it, for example, in aggressive and inappropriate driving behavior.)

Some might say entitled tourists been encouraged by the travel industry itself.

Think about the “us vs. them” situation of upgrades, premium classes, and exclusive features that have become so pervasive throughout travel, whether it be on airlines, or in accommodations and car rentals.

This arose out of the travel businesses’ desires for more income based on elite offerings. The industry has over-indulged those willing to spend more, or who travel more, and in doing so has helped, at least in part, to spawn the entitled tourist phenomenon. Now it has to some degree backfired on them, and those in the industry often resent the very people who they egged on.

When some travelers don’t get the premium service associated with the us-and-them culture in which we find ourselves, they feel free to act out here in Hawaii. We can tell you as residents, that when you see enough of it, it’s even easy to start to think that entitled Hawaii tourists are more pervasive than in fact they really are.

Unrealistic Hawaii vacation expectations.

When some visitors’ expectations aren’t met, there can be problems. It can ruin the entire travel experience, both for the Hawaii visitor, and for those with whom they interact. Case in point.

Your editors were seated inside a Starbucks here in Hawaii this week. One visitor walked in and demanded to know the address of the mall-based Starbucks. When the employee said they didn’t know the physical address of the mall, the visitor huffed off uttering not-so-nice expletives.

Within five minutes, another visitor walked in with several non-Starbucks drinks in their hand and asked for a tray for their beverages. The employee said that they don’t provide trays for non-Starbucks beverages. And in this situation too, the visitor left, irate about how they were accommodated.

Recently at Hanalei, the surf was up with significant undertow, and some young children and their parents were in the ocean. The lifeguard started yelling over the speaker for them to move closer to the pier where conditions were far safer. They refused and the lifeguard became angrier, trying to keep them safe while they disobeyed his warnings. It was as though these visitors were thinking, “we paid for this and will stay where we want to be.” The exasperated lifeguard said he simply wanted them to have a safe vacation.

This incident took the cake, literally.

The examples above are nothing compared with what happened Tuesday on Maui, when a visitor-related issue began at Moose McGillycuddy’s restaurant. Police were called regarding a 38 year-old Massachusetts’ resident who refused to either pay her bill or leave the restaurant. After Maui Police arrived, she agreed to pay the bill, but then still wouldn’t leave Moose McGillycuddys.

The visitor was subsequently arrested for disorderly conduct and refusing to leave, and was being transported to the police station in Kihei. While getting into the vehicle, they bit the police officer. Alcohol may have been a factor.

Charges against the woman, identified by police as Corey Campbell, now include assault on the officer in addition to the prior offenses.

Hawaii air rage incident.

So what comes next? Do they bite a flight attendant on the way home? What airline would want them as a guest? It reminded us of the scary Hawaii air rage incident that happened recently.

Your comments to this point.

“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.” (Robbos)

“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.” (Pam)

“Those that work in the service industry here are seriously over it & mentally exhausted from dealing with that same disrespectful & entitled attitude from visitors. Can you blame them? Travel has changed for the worst unfortunately. More & more travelors are traveling to trample & conquer. Sad!” (GR)

Yes, Hawaii is authentic.

Pam is right. With all of its problems, Hawaii is still unique. It is about the people, aloha, nature, the environment. These remain the isolated islands in the world and we welcome visitors for an incredible journey away from everyday life that’s different than anything you’ll find elsewhere.

No, Hawaii is no amusement park.

You’ve said it many times. People who live and work here aren’t like Disney employees. As an industry, Hawaii travel wants to please visitors, and we hope visitors appreciate who we are and what we have to offer.

Hawaii, unlike the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu, isn’t a manufactured experience crafted as a giant park for tourists. If you expect that, you’re in for almost certain disappointment. Hawaii is real, and primarily it is the home of its residents. Step into our real world. Visitors impact the lives of those who live here.

When you ask how Hawaii residents feel about visitors.

We were recently 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.”

Visitors can come to feel like they are being lumped in with a bunch of bad eggs. And Hawaii residents can have a similar take.

With the return to peak tourism, it’s easy to see more traffic, crowding and frustration. Hawaii is getting ready to welcome over 10 million annual visitors. That, in relation to our total population of a meager 1.4 million.

Please step into our world, gently. We live here, with Hawaii’s flora and fauna. 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 Hawaii isn’t close to perfect, nor do we try to pretend it is. Hawaii is real. Please join us in treating Hawaii as a jewel and help respect and protect it for all of us and for future generations.

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499 thoughts on “How Some Tourists are Ruining Hawaii Travel for Everyone”

  1. Aloha Auinala, this is such an unfortunate situation for our visitors industry,assuming tourism are the main economic revenue provisions for the 50th State. Hawaii by far is the multicultural melting pot capital of the World isolated unlike any place else in the United States of America. In two months we celebrate our Independence of this Great Nation. That will never change. It is through the way we serve others that our greatness is felt. One Nation Under God & Country.

    1. Hi
      Do not worry we are coming back next year
      We love hawaii

      We are from new Zealand
      Every one love us who live hawaii

  2. As a part-time Big Island resident and sometime tourist, I am embarrassed to be a haole and wish to God I was a native Hawaiian! It’s important to understand the local customs and history fully appreciate what is going on in Hawaii today. It can’t hurt to learn some of the language to show even more respect. The islands need to be approached with aloha, respect and a little bit of patience. People need to slow down and breathe the air and realize that they are in in paradise for a reason. Everyone needs to take the opportunity in their lives to actually pause and appreciate the beauty and aloha that makes up the island and the island people. Mahalo nui for taking a caring approach to your vacation in the Hawaiian islands.

  3. Thanks for writing this article, you nailed it! I rent Tesla’s on Turo and most of my guests come with an entitled disposition. They trash my cars, disregard the provided written instructions, and communicate with me as if I were from a Third World Country.

    It’s not worth the grief. I’m going to delist my cars after my scheduled bookings.

  4. I find this information very sad to hear. My husband and I from Canada spend about three and a half months at our timeshares on The Big Island every winter. Although we’ve never seen any of the disrespectful attitudes and bad behavior you described, I’m sure it is happening. It breaks my heart that these entitled buffoons would spoil it for everyone. Over the past two and a half years Covid changed everything including where Americans could travel. Hawaii became the prime ‘go-to’ destination as it was tropical, English was spoken, and it was still the US (although some residents may beg to differ, and I can’t blame them). What you’re seeing now is ‘The Ugly American’. Europe knows him only too well….perhaps a ‘code of cunduct’ brochure??

  5. I really appreciate this article about how Maui is not an amusement park. When I travel, I want to experience local culture, not be a pampered brat. Now that I’m retired and will be able to visit on a yearly basis I am concerned that only the rich and entitled will be able to afford to visit. I guess if you get to Maui at all you are entitled. I wish there could be some type of lottery where only those with Aloha spirit and respect for nature could visit. Venice, Italy has started charging admission and has banned large cruise ships from traveling through the center of Venice to stop the damage to their city. Limiting visitors is a tricky tightrope to navigate with a tourism economy.

  6. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Treat other neighborhoods and environments as you would want them to treat your neighbor hood. It’s easy, just go to enjoy and be gracious and thankful in the way you behave.

  7. I lived in Hawaii for 10 years and had visited as a tourist before I moved there. I noticed an increasinly hostile attutude towards white tourists change during my time there.
    I’ve been around the world literally 3 times and Hawaii is the most anti white (Haoli) racist place I had ever experienced.
    Most places I went the Locals started fist fights with me,which didn’t end well for them, while I was sitting down to eat lunch at Kappaa beach, at coffee shops in Kapaa, while I was sunbathing with my girlfriend in Hanalei bay at Black pot,surfing at Grandpas,Trees and shipwrecks. Poipu is the only place that I didn’t get into a fistfight.
    The local Racism is the problem.

    1. If you’re not local there are plenty of places you won’t be welcome in CA. Surfers are notorious for hassling any “outsiders”. This is not a racial issue it’s people “protecting” what they believe to be theirs.

      If anything, the pandemic has shown just how little people regard their fellow man.

      1. I disagree with it having anything to do with being a surfer or protecting what they believe to be theirs. I have been harshly discriminated against at Ala Moana mall, at the beach, at work, at a night club and in the grocery store.
        I am a nurse that cares for our elderly in the community. I understand the importance of being respectful. I am always respectful and polite. I am continually harassed without any type of provocation. It is difficult to live in a place where I experience such extreme hatred simply because someone sees my white skin.

        1. As a white male, it was an eye opener for me visiting Hawaii being prejudiced against because now I was the minority. It was a wake-up call of sorts and I empathize with others who have had to deal with a lifetime of that. It was by no means over the top or overt, I just had a sense of feeling like an intruder. I imagine if I had stayed longer, I may have been the victim of prejudice. With that said, if given such a chance to visit Hawaii again I certainly would! But that aspect though enlightening was disappointing.

    2. I beg to differ. Coming here in my early twenties, I’ve lived in Hawaii over 45 years. I’m a haole and I haven’t been in one fight with the locals. If you had 5 different fights during one vacation, I would say it was your fault. Any time you act like the non-white locals are less than the rich haole you will have trouble. And your letter makes it clear that that is your opinion, You are soooo wrong. Most anti-white racism is usually brought on by the tourist themselves. Remember that next time. Next vacation, please, do us all a favor and go elsewhere. Then you can’t lie about us and we won’t disrespect your opinions.

    3. The summer I was planning on going to Hawaii for three weeks with my Filipina girlfriend. I can appreciate that locals have negative feelings about the number of tourists that come through and their attitudes.

      I treat everyone exceptionally nicely and with great respect, but I am reading so much about how white people especially white men are treated in Hawaii. I am concerned how I will be treated dating a Filipina woman. To be honest I’m having second thoughts about our trip. It’s a shame. At one time I had considered maybe buying a condo out there, and living there part time with her. Our mixed relationships where the man is white targets of racism?

      1. John C,

        I say make the trip. My first visit to Oahu was courtesy of the US Marine Corps-a very short visit, in 1965. Have visited regularly ever since, every year except 2 in the past 25 years.

        Never been rude, and no one has ever been rude to my family. However, no one has offered exceptional service either. The hotel/restaurant staff have been friendly, but no friendlier than elsewhere. I have to say, the most exceptional hotel/restaurant folks have been in Cancun.

        Returning in September, not for Aloha. Rather it’s beautiful, the weather is great and my wife insists on staying in the USA. We don’t feel welcome or unwelcome – it’s more acceptance as a result of necessity.

        As I said, make the trip. Be nice and you will get nice.

  8. Spot on. I run a business that caters to families- particular babies and we have people that make reservations months in advance and those that make them a day out. Some of the last minute people expect you to jump through hoops & get mad when you are out of items. I have literally had to say to several of them- “we have families that planned and reserved months in advance, your failure to plan does not constitute an emergency on my or our staffs part. You will get your items when you get them- it will be today but probably not at the time you want them” Now majority of our client are amazing- but its the few that ruin it for everyone else.

  9. Aloha BOH Bro’s

    One last thing it’s super quiet on BI. We’re at Fairmont Orchid it’s only 50-60 percent cap. It’s a little overcast today 90 percent of the pool sitting is open. All the restaurants we’ve dined at have been half empty. Yesterday Hilo had more activity, but we had no issue with parking or getting a table at one of the most popular restaurants for lunch.

    Calm before the summer travel crush storm?

  10. We love having visitors as long as thats it. I’m very disappointed to see these “visitors” moving here. I recently had an “accident” with an vehicle from Florida and they had No insurance. So disappointing. I work in the hospitality industry. My most recent encounter was with visitors complaining about how loud the birds are in the morning. The hotel had so many complaints they are now cutting down the trees to try to get the birds to leave. I say go somewhere where there are no birds. They complain about insects, roaches. Sorry its atropical island we have bugs and birds. Im becoming racist because of they’re attitude and can live without the rudeness and they’re feelings of entitlement.

    1. My husband and I just spent three months on the Big Island. The first thing I always notice (and love) are the birds as soon as we arrive. Don’t get to hear that in Michigan in the winter with the windows closed. We loved the birds greeting us in the morning. Told our guests visiting us, they would be awakened early; we’re kind of early to bed, early to rise people, so no problem for us.


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