The Hawaiian Islands are among the most popular vacation destinations in the world. They offer travellers many beautiful sites and a wide variety of activities to enjoy. Couple that with the fact that Hawaii is the most popular travel destination in the United States, and you’ve got a recipe for overtourism.
Hawaii’s nickname is the “Aloha State” because Hawaiians are generally friendly and hospitable. The vast majority of visitors to the islands are not just there to see the sights and explore the natural beauty; they’re also looking for the best activities in Hawaii. Unfortunately, there’s a downside to this popularity. Over-tourism has become a massive problem in Hawaii, and it’s negatively impacting the state’s environment and culture.
Overtourism has gotten so bad in Hawaii that residents have begged tourists not to come to the islands. It’s been reported that there is a shortage of hospitality workers, road congestion and long wait times in restaurants.
One local Mayor asked airlines to help by decreasing the number of incoming flights arriving.
At a press conference, Mayor Mike Victorino said, “We’re asking for just a pause if you want to use that term. We don’t have the authority to say ‘stop,’ but we’re asking the powers that be to help us in this sense.”
An estimated 10.4 million people visited the state in 2019 before the pandemic. The number of visitors per day in May 2021 was 190,491, down slightly from the record high of 228,768 per day in May 2019. These numbers are unsustainable in a state of 1.5 million people. Native Hawaiians face water shortages, inadequate housing and the skyrocketing cost of living.
Tourists were eager to escape lockdown restrictions at home for an island paradise and luxurious accommodations, seemingly unaware of how their vacation would affect people on the islands.
Maui residents were left dismayed by the recent news that they would be fined $500 (€426) for using water for “non-essential” activities, including washing their cars.
People have taken to social media to express their concerns about the level of tourism in their areas.
What can you do to help Hawaii?
Hawaii’s popularity has led to severe environmental damage, cultural degradation, and economic pressure on local businesses. As much as you may want to visit the islands, think twice. If you can’t travel during off-peak seasons to lessen the pressure on the Native Hawaiians and the hospitality industry, there are other beautiful destinations to travel to over the next few years.
If you can’t resist the allure of Hawaii, then on your visit, make sure you respect the culture and history, don’t touch endangered artefacts and don’t go hiking on forbidden trails. Oh, and don’t dump your trash on the beaches—just a few things to think about.