How a vacation in Hawaii can be relaxing for tourists – and harmful for residents

But as it exists now, the powerful tourism industry often takes a toll on the lives of Native Hawaiians, said Kyle Kajihiro, a lecturer at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and activist for Native Hawaiian rights.

Hawaii’s tourism industry powers its state’s revenue, but that reliance on tourism has led to displacement of Native Hawaiians from their homes, climate change ravages the natural landscape, and a lack of respect for the 50th state. A land of more than half a million people.

“I think it’s very easy for people to go to places like Hawaii,” Kajihiro said. “It conditions visitors to feel entitled.”

Kajihiro told CNN the industry must change to improve the future of Native Hawaiians. He is one of many residents who have worked to educate visitors and return some elements of Hawaiian culture to the people from whom it originated. If visitors to Hawaii focus on themselves and instead treat them with respect and a desire to learn — or choose not to visit at all — then Hawaii can be preserved for the people who have called it home for centuries, activists said.

For many residents, living in Hawaii is not a vacation

According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, tourism is Hawaii’s largest single source of private capital. Even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, it remains incredibly attractive: In April alone, visitors to Hawaii spent more than $1 billion on the islands, according to a state report marking tourism’s recovery since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But what’s beneficial to Hawaii’s economy can have a negative impact on the lives of natives and year-round residents. To deal with drought conditions, residents were told last year to reduce their water consumption or face fines while large resorts continued to use too much water. There are millions more annual visitors than permanent residents — in 2021, there were more than 6.7 million visitors compared to 1.4 million residents — which can increase carbon emissions and overuse its beaches, hiking trails and other natural wonders. Hawaii is also known as the “Extinction Capital of the World” for the number of species that are extinct or at high risk of extinction.
It also has the highest cost of living in the nation, partly because the state must import about 90% of its goods. Its housing market is one of the most expensive in the country, ProPublica and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported in 2020, and with the high demand for land and its limited supply, natives could spend decades reclaiming ancestral lands. Move from some islands.

“Tourism normalizes and obscures the current dystopian reality experienced by many Kanaka Maoli and Hawaii’s poor immigrant communities,” Kajihiro told CNN. (Kanaka Maoli is the Hawaiian word for Native Hawaiians.)

To empower natives and take back some of their rights, the tourism industry needs to change, starting with its ethos, Kajihiro said.

‘DeTours’ shows the real history of Hawaii beyond the beach

In an effort to reclaim Hawaii’s history and educate residents and visitors about the effects of colonization, militarization, and tourism, Kajihiro created the Hawaii Detour Project. The program, which she runs with lifelong activist Terrilee Kekoʻolani, aims to “interact with a more critical historical account of Hawai’i” in hopes of starting a conversation about social responsibility and creating solidarity with social justice and environmental activist efforts in Hawai’i.

Kyle Kajihiro, left, and Terili Keiko Olani offer alternative tours of Hawaiian landmarks to show how colonization, tourism and militarization affected the islands and residents.

Kajihiro takes detours to places like downtown Honolulu to discuss Hawaii’s former sovereignty; at Iolani Palace, where America supported a white settler-led coup against Queen Liliuokalani; at military landmarks such as the Pearl Harbor Memorial to discuss American efforts to turn parts of Hawaii into military bases.

Although Kajihiro does not advertise its services, visitors are looking for them. While prioritizing educational and political groups that can help create change locally, he has seen both residents and visitors on his tours, some of whom are known to be involved in the causes he highlights.

“I think it can be seen as a good sign that people want to learn and be more responsible as travelers,” he said. “But there are also many people who just want the novelty of a ‘real’ tour or try to reduce their guilt by doing more ‘socially responsible’ tourism. I don’t want to allow people to visit Hawaii crime-free.”

One way to support the natives is to not visit at all, some say

Two teachers from Hawaii borrowed the name of Kajihiro’s operation for their book, which also shares his principles. “Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawai’i,” co-edited by Vernadette Gonzalez and Hōkūlani Aikau, is no ordinary guide book—it’s a call to action.

The book is designed to educate readers about Hawaii’s past and present and the negative effects of colonization, militarization, and tourism. Even if readers never make it to Hawaii, the stories take them to some of the sites where Kajihiro leads his groups. In the book’s introduction, Gonzalez and Aikau write that not all readers “will be invited or allowed to go to all the places described” and that some places were left out entirely because they were “not for outsiders.” ”

Millions of tourists visit Hawaii each year, with a population of over 1.4 million.  But to secure a sustainable future for Hawaii and Native Hawaiians, changes must be made to respect tourism and decentralize tourism, activists say.

As Gonzalez and Ekau wrote, many tourists’ relationship with Hawai’i is one of withdrawal, and if Hawai’i is known to tourists and residents of Hawai’i to exist, that relationship must change to one of support. Better yet, they write, would choose not to vacation in Hawaii.

“Sometimes the best way to support decolonization and Kanaka ‘oiwi (Native Hawaiian) revitalization is not to visit our homes as tourists,” the editors write.

Improving tourism starts with respect for the islands and native Hawaiians

Of course, Hawaii will always have tourists as long as it remains the islands’ top industry — and as long as its beaches beckon guests with deep pockets. Hawaii’s nonprofit Sustainable Tourism Association connects tourists with local attractions that emphasize cultural and environmental responsibility. Coconut Traveler, a travel company created by Debbie Misazon, the granddaughter of Filipino immigrants who moved to Hawaii to work on sugarcane plantations, is aimed at wealthy guests and charges responsible tourism fees, 100% of which goes to local organizations. To maintain Hawaii’s natural beauty. From a guest center to air travel, the island and its residents can lighten the footprint left by tourists there, Misazon told CNN.

“I’m all for coming and enjoying the islands, but (I) encourage people to find ways to be part of the solution,” Misazon said. “It may be trite, but spend your money locally.”

Fundamental changes in the tourism industry must return rights to Native Hawaiians and allow them to decide how they want to share and enjoy their culture, Kajihiro said. New Zealand already has a model of this, where Maori people have control over how their culture is represented and experienced by tourists, he said, emphasizing mutual respect.

“Let’s discard the word tourism,” Kajihiro said. “Too many words privilege the consumer, the function of places of consumption, and the transactional relationship.”

Instead, he said, visitors should “rethink the journey as entering someone else’s home.” A person who is a guest in someone’s home can bring gifts or express gratitude to their host in other ways, he said.

“As a visitor, you have a burden to learn, act responsibly, not be a burden and respect your host,” Kajihiro said.

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