On the islands where there were about 242,000 visitors any given day in 2019, Hawaii was mostly off limits for travelers over the last two years following a series of COVID induced restrictions. Now that the restrictions are over and COVID is no longer considered a health emergency, the Aloha state braces itself for a season full of tourists, it seems the first blow is over-tourism is already on the horizon in the form of memorial day celebrations.
Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May which falls on 30th this month. The local government takes the ceremony as an opportunity for speeches, presentation of wreaths, music, aircraft flyover, and salute using military weaponry among other military and administrative displays. Civilians usually celebrate this day with holiday picnics and time on the beach.
This year, flower showers, floating lanterns, and many other events are being planned to commemorate fallen heroes, the highlight being the Memorial Day Parade in Honolulu. The parade will have marching military bands, scouts, military units, and veterans commence their march from Fort DeRussey, Waikiki, down Kalakaua Avenue, continue to Monsarrat Avenue to the Waikiki Shell. The day is set to be concluded with a concert in the evening.
While the whole nation and the island state both prepare for a day of celebration and veneration of the great heroes, there are lingering problems that continue to mar the island. Despite inflation and other economic problems in the post pandemic world, the number of Americans flying during the celebration is already up 25%. It means there would be a massive surge in demands across rentals, tourist facilities and transportation and may even worry health officials as the archipelago is seeing a minor uptick in the number of COVID cases.
The sheer number of visitors is also exacerbating the car rental shortage and causing price hike in gasoline which is already at the prices not seen since 2014. There is expected to be a huge demand for rentals among the tourists especially since the government has been actively trying to curb the availability with measures like restricting Airbnb’s to only 90 day stays and Airbnb committing to safe and responsible travel by preventing big house parties in Hawaii for Memorial Day weekend and the 4th of July weekend.
Hawaii is no stranger to ignorant tourism, locals often voice their complaint in social media about how over tourism is making their life miserable with gentrification, resource gouging, lack of respect to local traditions from the tourist and sometimes even putting their lives in danger looking for fame in social media. Recently, a visitor from Florida had to be rescued with a helicopter sparking debate on whether the state should even be paying for visitors’ recklessness.
The local population seems to be really frustrated with the tourism boom but still the majority still view tourism as net positive and worth the issues that come with it according to a survey by Hawaii Tourism Authority. The situation however seems precarious as fewer residents felt that the tourism industry creates many well-paying jobs or jobs that have opportunities for advancement compared to previous years.
Over the last couple of years many people have a pent up desire for travel which they are expressing this summer but be careful and responsible when you visit Hawaii. It’s worth knowing what you may be getting yourself into deep in the pacific and being a positive example always helps to change the sentiments of locals and ease the burden the island is taking for tourism.
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