Lee Cataluna: Killing the nene that laid the golden egg
Discussions of Hawaii’s outsized tourism numbers often shape up into complaints from Hawaii residents on one side and defensive arguments from those who make their money off tourism on the other.
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Discussions of Hawaii’s outsized tourism numbers often shape up into complaints from Hawaii residents on one side and defensive arguments from those who make their money off tourism on the other. There are those who are heartsick over all the changes 10 million tourists a year have brought to the island way of life pitted against those who celebrate the financial boon of increased visitor arrivals and who are delighted for more.
Included in that 10 million are the Yelp-reviewing, dangerous-Selfie-taking, illegal-vacation-renting masses, but also, in contrast, visitors who are respectful, easy-going guests and who love the Hawaii that Hawaii residents love; people who have been coming here for decades, who see the changes, and who miss the Hawaii they cherished.
Shawn and Rozalia Kennedy from Winnipeg, Canada, have been coming to Hawaii since their honeymoon trip in 1989.
They represent a certain kind of visitor — appreciative, conscientious, loyal — the sort of repeat-customers that keep businesses afloat.
They were just in Hawaii again for a two-week stay in Waikiki, calling it “an enormous privilege to be allowed to visit such a place.” They spent their time enjoying the weather, looking for their favorite places and generally trying to be good guests.
“We try to minimize our footprint when there; turn off the AC in our hotel, no car rentals (walk or bike or bus), no takeout food or drink – that kind of thing. And why does anyone use AC when it’s a glorious 82 degrees outside, we wonder? Coming from (minus) 40, cold air is the last thing we seek in Hawaii,” Shawn Kennedy said.
Of course, they’ve seen the changes since their first trip in ’89, but with 10 million tourists a year landing in Hawaii, the changes these days are more dramatic. Besides crowded hiking trails and overused beaches, even the touristy stuff feels overdone.
“Over the years, much of the original Waikiki we knew and enjoyed has vanished, replaced by a plethora of high-end stores that most visitors simply cannot afford …The International Market Place was torn down and replaced by the new IMP luxo-mall — full of shops distinguished primarily by their lack of customers. Dukes Lane does offer a small grouping of the kitsch stalls like those that used to be in the IMP but it’s hardly the same. The used book stores are all gone, probably could not afford the rent. Kings Village was flattened since we were there last; we thought it was a terrific place — small, funky, affordable,” Kennedy said.
Other things caught their attention, like air-conditioned stores with wide-open doors, rental cars that aren’t electric or hybrid vehicles and not enough alternative energy; but mostly, they felt priced out of their favorite vacation destination.
“Overall, we are beginning to feel that we no longer fit in as middle-income retirees. Perhaps they really do only want rich tourists to visit.”
It’s time to talk about how to re-scale Hawaii tourism when tourists are talking about over-tourism ruining the place.