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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. As a frequent visitor, I have been appalled by the behavior of other visitors. I do sympathize with the locals. They are in an impossible situation, they rely on the tourists for their livelyhoodand are tired of people who don’t respect them, the culture or the environment. My hat is off to them. Thank you for sharing your lovely Aloha spirit with me and my family.

  2. Very sad that this is happening. We visited Hawaii for the first time earlier this year. We were literally overwhelmed by the beauty of the island and the kindness of Hawaiians we met. It was a privilege and a delight to visit and we hope to do so again, very soon.

  3. The unseen root of an “entitled” attitude is insecurity. And we’re all feeling insecure about the future; life has been turned upside down these last few years. But I can’t think of a better place to rest and relax than Hawaii… it’s the place I think to go when I need a respite from winter blues, Covid fatigue, the news of war, inflation and a host of other stressors we are all currently living with on a daily basis. The slower pace, Aloha spirit, mana, birdsong, smiles of happy locals… it’s hard to believe anyone could ever be in a bad mood in Hawaii. I’ve even seen people singing in their cars in traffic. Hawaii transforms people for the better; I trust in that more than the stories of a few disgruntled travelers. 🙂 Aloha love

      1. Thank you for replying to Trasea post. As it caused me to pause and read what enacted a reply from the author. Yes Trasea is how I have always felt travelling to Maui and the other islands every 5 years of my life. It wasn’t until the past 2 years that I started browsing social media to understand where I could stay safely and as I read the posts, I discovered disgruntled individuals and read many horror posts from locals asking us to stay on the Mainland. I truly want to get one last visit in during my old age and want so bad to feel just as Trasea posted. That is how I remembered the Aloha State!

  4. I’m a haole (white) woman and have only lived on Oahu for 4 years. I’ve never experienced any aggression from anyone at any time. My husband, also white, surfs all the time at local beaches and has never gotten into fights or anything described in other comments. However, we’re also friendly and respectful. We treat everyone with aloha and, in return, we’re treated the same way back. If we’re ever treated with a frown and sharp words we answer with a smile and before long they’re smiling too. I truly believe that if you treat others as friends you’ll get the same treatment in return. People today are so quick to get angry and offended. I prefer to treat everyone with aloha instead.

    1. Well said. But I would like to add that we treat everyone like ohana, not just friends. There is a big difference in our culture. Everyone here is family!

  5. I apologize for the rude tourists. Live in a Florida tourist town and it can be difficult sometimes. We’ve been wanting to visit for So long and just want to get the real feel for your beautiful islands. We hate crowds too! It’s hard for us to get the truth about rental cars, fun places to go, etc. Most of us just want to see authentic island life and the beautiful land and sunsets!

    1. To John C, I am also in a mixed relationship. He is black. I’m white. I would definitely go and enjoy the trip with your Filipino girlfriend. We have not had any problems with locals. Hawaii is a melting pot of races and cultures that make it what it is. Lots of Filipino people there. So many comments on this thread today. Mostly positive, just be your kind selves and have fun. You will love the atmosphere and be glad you got to experience the islands charm and beauty.

  6. Me and my girlfriend landed in Maui on March 11th 2020, the first day that the pandemic became an obsession. We had planned and paid for the trip costing $6,000 months before. Whenever we tried to go to a local beach we were presented with hostile signs telling non-native Hawaiians to go home. I’m sorry, I thought this was one country. The USA, and we stood together as a country. It would be like Indiana residents telling Illinois residents to stay out of Indiana. It was sickening. Thuggery.

    1. Too bad you thought paying $6000 would buy your pleasure. I have never seen any “signs” at any beach against tourists, and I’ve lived here for almost 40 years. Before it was an obsession as you say, the word was out. Why plan to travel when the potential was out there? We knew this By December. So sad for your trip experience but

    2. Unfortunately you came at a very bad time when even Hawaiians were not allowed on the beach. People were told to go home because this was the beginning of a worldly pandemic. Also just to add…yes Hawaii is part of the US but It was also illegally overthrown and Hawaiians were stripped of their lands, language, and culture. Completely different situations when comparing to any other state.

  7. One other thing I would like to add is that I suspect many locals don’t realize what many tourists will do for the islands and locals in an effort to reciprocate the Aloha they experienced.

    What I have read in many of these comments and others are tourists mentioning volunteering or other ways of spreading Aloha. I know in my case I have consistently donated anonymously to various charities in an effort to show Aloha and my appreciation, I am sure many others do the same.

  8. As an African-American male who visits Maui every year for a few weeks, I can truly say that Hawaii, most specifically Maui and the Big Island, has been one of the most welcoming places I’ve ever been or lived. I’ve always been treated with dignity and respect by the locals, and I suspect a large part of that is due to me giving them and their land the same respect. I think it is interesting that some of the commenters mention how they are treated differently only because of the color of their skin. Welcome to the club! Aloha!!!

    1. Hmmm…. not sure I would be welcoming anyone to that club, I have always felt racism is bad in any form.

      There is no need to be rude to people that would most likely be very welcoming to you (some of my closest and most supportive friends are black and I know they would not share your sentiment).

      On a side note, you do know that haole typically means a white person and is often used in a derogatory manner, right? Some school kids in Hawaii have a “kill haole day” when white students are harassed and attacked by non-white kids. It is also well known that white kids are harassed and bullied at school.

      I do understand the double standard though as I am white and my wife is Hispanic, looks like a local, and is treated like a local.

  9. to start i am white my wife and i find that we are getting to old to go to Hawaii. but i made time to learn and slow it down. a lot of doors open when you have respect. thank you for what you do ..calif

  10. Living in San Diego, you learn to deal with tourist and all the military families from other states. When I go on vacation to Kauai, I am always respectful of the land, those that are residents. I have seen very friendly locals and a few not so friendly because of my mainland skintone. I am not all Caucasian only half. But you can tell I’m not local to Kauai. I love the aloha spirit from those that choose to share it and find it sad for those that chose to dislike me simply because I’m not a local. I get the frustration but would never treat some less because they were not from San Diego


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