Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tourism - You Can't Have It Both Ways

Tourism is considered the lifeblood of Hawaii. Tourism dollars pour through the coffer of Hawaii. The news constantly reports hotel occupancy rates, dollars spent each night per visitor, or how visitor numbers rose or fell this year from last year. Many jobs are tied to tourism, even though they may not be directly related, like restaurant work, construction, or salon services.

Tourists on Maui watching the waves at Ho'okipa Beach Park.

The tourism debate has been raging for decades: Is Hawaii too dependent on tourism? Shouldn’t Hawaii try to diversify its economy with agriculture and technology? Do the benefits of tourism outweigh the costs of tourism? Is tourism changing the local way of life? Is tourism promoting the Disneyification of Hawaiian culture?

The hidden goals of Hawaii tourism seem to be, “Come visit, spend your money” but by golly, “Don’t move here” and “Don’t disturb our way of life” and “Please don’t move into our neighborhoods. If you really have to live here, then go live in Waikiki.”

I don’t think you can have it both ways. If you promote and embrace tourism, then people are inevitably going to want to move here. Maybe not now, but maybe next month, or next year, or in 10 years. You can’t keep promoting Hawaii as a great place to visit without some people wanting to stay. It happens all the time.

Is tourism a gateway drug?
People here may complain about other people moving to Hawaii, but tourism is like a gateway drug. It’s the dangling carrot in front of a hungry horse. Sooner or later, that horse is going to catch up with that carrot. 

If people are trying to move to paradise, what is it about where they live that isn't satisfying? Other than the weather, is it too many people, not enough nature, living at too fast a pace? The irony is that if too many people move to Hawaii too quickly, then Hawaii will become full of too many people, less nature, and a more fast-paced life. This is what is happening to Oahu. But tourism continues and people continue to create sprawling developments and then run away to places with less urban sprawl.

On the flip side, I wonder if the discussion is moot, for two reasons:

1. The Little Red Fire Ant could pose a huge threat to Hawaii's ecosystems, agriculture and tourism based economy. It's already invaded the Big Island, causing untold millions of dollars in damage. It has also now been sighted on Maui. This ant species is so dangerous because it proliferates and causes intense pain (even blindness) for humans and animals, plus damage to plants and food crops. That's just the tip of the iceberg.

2. Global warming? I just read a National Geographic article that projects at current levels of rising sea water, even just a rise of four feet, most of Florida will be under water in 100 years. Whether one believes global warming is manmade or a natural process, if sea levels continue to rise as expected, that is going to take tourism to a whole different level. 

P.S. If you are blog hopping from the A to Z challenge, please include your link if you comment! I try to reciprocate comments as quickly as I can, though I did lag behind last year, especially towards the end.

P.P.S. I am running two mini-contests during the A-Z Challenge (and into part of May). Here's how to enter


  1. We used to have a saying in the 1970's, "Welcome to California, now go home". Then it was too late and everyone moved here. So now, it's just Welcome to California. Tourism mean big bucks for us too and those of us who live here avoid all the tourist traps until the vacationer's go home. Still, you're right, can't have it both ways. Don't worry though, I won't be moving to Hawaii. And, we have learned that the tourist not only bring money but new ideas so it's worked out OK.

  2. Awesome, that's funny. I think we have similar slogans in Hawaii, like Welcome to Hawaii, spend your money, now go back home. Or something like that. YOu gave me a good laugh.

  3. The Husband and I think that we'd like to move to Hawaii one day. The first time I visited Hawaii, I felt like I'd come home. My parents are from the Philippines. I didn't get that feeling at all when I visited it. The Husband feels quite comfortable there, too.

  4. Glad you felt comfortable here. With your ethnicity, you would be right at home.


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