By Allyson Pang, AsAmNews Intern
Even though Hawaii has fewer tourists due to the pandemic, the current visitors spent $200 million more than the ones from three years ago.
“The tourism industry brings a lot of money to Hawaii but it doesn’t go to the people or these places that are actually impacted by the tourism,” educator and Waipio Lookout resident Dr. Ku Kahakalau said to AsAmNews.
“Most of this tourism industry is controlled by businesses and entities that are just trying to maximize profit,” Hawaii Detours Project Co-founder Kyle Kajihiro said to AsAmNews. “So they don’t really care about this place.”
With more tourists, some locals are making a stand against tourism to protect their homes and put money back into the community.
Regenerative tourism is a current practice of educating visitors on leaving a space better than how you found it.
“We need to manage tourists when they come,” the Cliffs General Manager Jim Braman told me.
For a year and a half, the Cliffs hotel on Kauai has partnered with Surf Rider Foundation to practice regenerative tourism. Guests can rent beach clean-up supplies at the hotel and collect trash as they spend the day at the beach.
“It’s been nice to see families wanting to teach their children,” Braman said.
Since 2011, Travel2Change has practiced regenerative tourism by connecting nonprofit organizations and community groups to visitors. The goal is to put the community first, then the visitor.
“Tourism could be a force of good as long as it’s done consciously and with respect to the local environment in partnership with local organizations and community,” Travel2Change Executive Director Mondy Jamshidi Kent said to AsAmNews.
Lala Nuss founded Conscious Concepts. A few years ago, Nuss found that $17.6 billion went into the state from tourism that year. However, only about 10-15% of that went back into the local economy.
Conscious Concepts aims to consult with organizations to focus more around regenerative travel and increase the amount of money going back into the community.
Communities like Waipio Valley have lost trust in the county to help manage tourism and now, they take action themselves.
The community is creating an interpretative cultural learning center where visitors can learn about Waipio’s history and see the valley from a safe distance.
“The commitment has to be for everybody that comes here as a visitor to make positive impacts on Hawaii,” Dr. Kahakalau said.
Other landmark sites across the islands have begun charging higher fees for non-locals.
“Separate the resident and the tourist, so the tourist sees it,” University of Hawaii professor Jerry Agrusa said to AsAmNews.
With the way tourism is run, some residents urge tourists not to come at all.
However, Hawaii’s reliance on tourism makes it difficult to completely get rid of it or even diversify into other industries like food production. Many residents’ jobs are either directly or indirectly involved with tourism. Even then, some jobs cannot pay enough for the high cost of living in Hawaii.
“We should figure out how to provide a livelihood for folks to live here,” Kajihiro said. “We’ve passed the point where the rate of people moving away is faster than the rate of people being born here and staying.”
“There is this fine line of traveling these days and what is our footprint?” Conscious Concepts founder Laurien (Lala) Nuss said to AsAmNews. “What is our legacy that we’re wanting to leave?”
This is Allyson Pang, reporting from Honolulu, Hawaii for AsAmNews.
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