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Many Hawaiian Locals Don’t Want Tourists To Return Due To Mass Over-tourism

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When one thinks of living in the picturesque travel destination of the Hawaiian islands, a dream of serenity, sun, and waves hitting the beaches comes to mind. What doesn’t though, is water shortage, extremely high gentrification, skyrocketing living costs and Covid-19 worries.

Crowded beach

Prospective tourists to Hawaii could be surprised to know that many Hawaiian local residents are not happy at all to see the return in tourist traffic this summer, or ever.

The problems started as early as summer season 2021, when traveling for pleasure was re-initiated after a one and a half year complete hiatus for vaccinated travelers from the U.S. mainland. Worker shortage, incredibly long waiting times in restaurants, shopping centers and traffic jams gripped the island.

Crowded beach in Hawaii

Many of these problems stem from the “pandemic travel” season of mid 2021, in which most American chose to travel to domestic destinations rather than the typical trip abroad to Europe or Asia (find source of news/research for this).

After a short winter break, the worries about the summer of 2022 started resurfacing, and much stronger since this time it seems like the pandemic is all but over.

Waikiki beach

A big controversial topic has been the water supply. Hawaii has always had a problem with drinkable water shortage, which has been greatly exacerbated by the high tourist influx. The government of Maui went as far as introducing a $500 fine for “non-essential” water-related activities, such as watering the lawn, washing the car, etc. This has brought a wave of rage and disbelief by the local residents that are convinced the tourists are taking most of the drinkable water supply.

Crowded waikiki

Despite all the negative sentiment towards tourism, the locals still believe tourism as a net positive for the economy and advocate a more sustainable tourism.

On being asked,

“In 2019, visitors spent nearly $18 billion in Hawaii, which produced $2 billion in state tax revenues to support local schools, hospitals, and infrastructure. Do you think tourism is worth the issues associated with the industry?”

More than 75 percent of Hawaii residents statewide said “yes”

People attending an event in Honolulu

The more problematic issue however could be the downtrend of the statement “Tourism has brought more benefits than problems”. The percentage of people who agreed to this peaked at 80% in 2010 but now stands at a dismal 49%.

Other worries that came were related to Covid-19, as Hawaii has been one of the most cautious states in The U.S. whilst dealing with the pandemic, many are afraid that the vast amounts of tourists will bring the numbers back up.

torch lighting on waikiki beach

When thinking of visiting Hawaii, you must be respectful to preserve the local culture, environment and lifestyle. Remember you are a guest, and treat the hosts with respect, from using less water, to not disturbing nature. 

After the restrictions were completely lifted, the islands are bracing themselves for the return of tourism on its full force. The authorities are taking steps to curb the negative impact of over-tourism, such as a new reservation system for attractions and a cap on the number of visitors to Maui, increasing the Airbnb dwell time for Oahu island – which has the city of Honolulu on its southern shores to 90 days. 

Town of Hawi view from above

Alternatives also include visiting some less-known attractions, such as Hawi, which was recently selected as the “most charming” town in Hawaii.

Such things have little to no impact for tourists and are just a small sacrifice for you with proper travel planning, but can mean the difference between livable and unlivable to the locals.


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