Hawaii is known for its beautiful beaches and breathtaking sunsets. It is a little bit of paradise located in the United States and visitors are flocking to the islands. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many tourists had to put their 2020 vacation plans on hold and now, those tourists are coming to Hawaii in droves. And while it is a gorgeous destination for travelers from all over the world, Hawaii’s residents are asking for a pause in visitors.
Business Insider reports that residents of Hawaii are simply overwhelmed with the increase in tourism. “The people of Maui County have lacked sufficient time to prepare for the sudden, large influx of tourism, even as health restrictions remain in place,” Brian Perry, a spokesman for Maui County mayor Michael Victorino, told Hawaii News Now’s Rick Daysog. “Many of our hospitality-related businesses are still struggling to fully staff their operations to provide a high quality of customer service.”
Bruce Fisher, who runs Hawaii Aloha, told Hawaii News Now that tourists are coming to Hawaii for a quick, budget-friendly trip, with great expectations. They want their experiences to be on par with life before the pandemic, and it’s just not realistic. Oahu is seeing upwards of 30,000 visitors per day. Those visitors are being disappointed with their experiences, and locals fear that it is leaving them with a bad taste for the islands.
The Hawaiian Tourism Authority released a statement in late June, detailing statistics for travelers in May 2021. There were a total of 629,681 visitors, mostly from the United States. To put that into perspective, Hawaii welcomed only 9,116 visitors in May 2020. In 2021, total spending by travellers in May was $1.10 billion.
Due to this unprecedented influx, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino has implored the airlines to bring fewer visitors to the island. He met with airline executives to come up with a plan to reduce the number of travelers coming into the state. Due to the overwhelming number of tourists, locals are experiencing strains on their quality of life as well.
Maui County Councilmember Kelly King is in support of the mayor’s plea. “There are so many people, so many cars on the road that people are parking along the road to Hana Highway and are blocking what could be what might be an emergency access,” King told Hawaii News Now. “Just going to the beach parks is a huge issue for locals. It’s really affecting the quality of life for our residents.”
Kaniela Ing, climate justice campaign director for People’s Action, has taken to Twitter to discourage any more visitors.
The increase in tourism has caused a water shortage in Maui. Due to the shortage, locals are being prohibited from doing things like washing their cars and watering their lawns. They are facing $500 fines for each violation. Locals needs are being sacrificed so that tourists can be more comfortable, and they are — understandably — getting fed up.
“Tourism is a servants’ prison that keeps local people in a permanent underclass, in our own home. It’s a system that literally only works when the people who play here are richer than us who live and work here,” Ing tweeted.
And yet, it is only expected to worsen. As of July 8th, domestic tourists who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to quarantine or take a COVID-19 pre-flight test. There is still a restriction on unvaccinated tourists, who must quarantine or test negative 72 hours prior to flying.
Overcrowded beaches, restaurants and hot spots are making vacations less desirable for travelers, and less access to resources are making residents unhappy. The situation is certainly not desirable for anyone. There is not much that those living on the islands can do. It is their home, and they must make the best of it. It’s the travelers who can, and should, make a difference.
If you are planning a trip to Hawaii, perhaps it would be a good idea to seek out an alternate destination instead. You may not get the experience that you are hoping for with so many other travelers there at the same time, anyway. In addition, there are plenty of other places that are in need of a tourism boost post-pandemic. Maybe it would be fun to plan a road trip and throw some business at small towns across the country. Or just head to one of the coasts to enjoy a few days at a (less-overcrowded) beach.
As we know, we are still learning to navigate this post-COVID-19 world. And while cases are dropping, we are not out of the woods as things like the Delta variant are popping up. We need to be cautiously optimistic about getting back to normal. There are still plenty of dangers that exist, and being in overpopulated and overly crowded areas still isn’t a great idea. So perhaps we should put our big travel plans on hold for a while and stay a bit closer to home. It may not be a picturesque beach with a golden sunset, but a frozen drink next to the backyard pool may be as close to paradise as you want to get right now anyway.
This article was originally published on