The Sustainable Tourism Gimmick

Tourist overlooking waipio valley

By: Manu Kala

Hawaii tourism is slowing coming back despite the continued absence of tourists from Asia.  As tourism returns to Hawaii, some tourism experts call for more environmentally responsible and sustainable forms of tourism.  This call is a binding gimmick intended to enable the emplacement of cultural and political limitations. 

First, let’s get tourism restored so people can go back to work and stop worrying about not having a job or when federal and state funds are going to dry up.  Doing this prevents people from having to worry about paying for medical care or food to eat.  Let’s do that first. 

Second, let’s diversify Hawaii’s future economy so that we are not dependent entirely on tourism and the federal government to survive.  Tourism should be one of the main sources of future wealth for Hawaii.  Some of the others should include agriculture, aquaculture, and energy production so we can feed and power ourselves through the next pandemic.

We cannot be focused entirely on being environmentally sound as we recover.  The entire world should have done that three or four decades ago.  Now we must embrace environmental clean-up in such a way that brings economic wealth generation to the state.  We are surrounded by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  We can be environmentally responsible inside the state and our shorelines because tomorrow the ocean is only going to bring more trash shore.  

Crowded neighborhoods, highways and beaches are signs that prosperity and wealth generation are returning to our state.  These should never be deemed inconveniences again.  Aside from the federal government, tourist pay for the entirety of what is Hawaii. Tourists come to Hawaii seeking more than a cultural or an environmental experience.  All of these reasons that tourist comes should be embraced.

Environmentally responsible cannot become the new version of cultural appropriation.  A haole or Asian born in and reared in Hawaii, is a Hawaii resident.  It’s the law.  They have an equal right to culturally appropriate their state’s culture regardless their physical appearance.   

People who like to spout environmentally regenerative tourism use studies conducted in Canada and New Zealand.  Canada is the world’s second largest country in geographic size.  It has population of 37 million (smaller than California).  In 2019, Canada had 22 million tourists.  New Zealand has a population of 4 million.  In 2019, New Zealand had about 3.5 million tourists.  In 2019, Hawaii had 10.4 million tourists – half that of Canada, triple that of New Zealand.

Tourism officials have been pushing a sustainable agenda in a recent advertising campaign called Malama Hawaii. Malama is a Hawaiian word that means to give back, take care of, preserve or protect.  If the tourist experts and our government officials truly want to preserve and protect Hawaii, open the state up, embrace all our past opportunities equally, and create new more resilient and diverse opportunities.  Don’t limit, Woke, or cancel us because we do not fit a visible stereotype or mislabel us or confine us culturally or environmentally.