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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

LYONS: Take care when visiting Hawaii

The recent wildfires in Maui have exposed the detrimental effects that the Hawiian tourism industry has on the state. Not only does the tourism industry severely impact the climate but it is also harmful to indigenous Hawaiians. 

The wildfire has been among the top 10 deadliest wildfires in the U.S. on record since 1871. It has leveled the town of Lahaina, destroyed historical landmarks and several residential buildings leaving people homeless. 

Even before the fires, droughts have been prominent due to climate change in part caused by the tourism industry. Tourism accounts for the largest usage of water throughout Hawaii. This exploitation of resources along with the effects of climate change contribute to the state’s water crisis and droughts.

Destruction from the fires have brought greater attention to the disparities between Hawaiian residents, tourists and large resorts. 

During a drought in the summer of 2022, residents of Maui had their water use restricted and faced fines for nonessential uses such as watering lawns and washing cars. However, resorts were allowed to use the scarce resource for golf courses, pools and landscaping. 

Native Hawaiians have been asking tourists to stop coming to Hawaii and supporting an industry which takes away resources from residents. Former Hawaii State Representative Kaniela Ing tweeted, “Stop coming to Hawaii. They are treating us like second-class citizens…”

The tourism industry also fuels homelessness throughout the state. Short term vacation rentals such as airbnb have skyrocketed the cost of living for locals. On Maui, the median price of a home is more than $1 million but the average per capita income is only $39,045.

It’s ridiculous that locals have to suffer homelessness and fines simply because people want to visit.

The economic disparities the tourism industry creates in Hawaii should be concerning to all of us. 

This isn’t to say that tourism to Hawaii should cease completely, howeverit needs to be done more consciously. Tourists need to be aware of the power they have and the harm they may do even unwittingly. 

If people do choose to visit Hawaii it’s important to intentionally buy from and support businesses run by locals. Tourists need to use their money to help the actual people living on the islands, not the large corporations that take advantage of them.

It’s also necessary for people to educate themselves on the culture and spiritual beliefs of Hawaii. Too many tourists have unwittingly stolen volcanic rocks which are viewed as sacred. There have also been instances of tourists using critically endangered animals for a photo op. 

Tourism represents around a quarter of the Hawaiian economy and therefore cannot cease completely. However it needs to benefit the actual residents of Hawaii and not just the large companies that make up the tourism industry.

Just existing as a visitor in Hawaii and not making efforts to support and respect locals and the spaces they hold dear is harmful. Much of the money spent by tourists goes to large corporations. So though they may feel like all the money they spend is helping the economy, it’s only hurting the people and creating a larger economic rift. This money should instead be invested into locals and their businesses.

Remember, you’re visiting someone’s home. Hawaii is not your playground.

This story was written by Kirsten Lyons. She can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Kirsten Lyons
Kirsten Lyons, Assistant Opinions Editor
Kirsten Lyons is a sophomore from St. Paul, Minnesota studying journalism and peace studies and is the Assistant Opinions Editor at the Marquette Wire for the 2023-2024 school year. Outside of the Wire she enjoys knitting, reading and trying out new recipes. She is excited to grow as a journalist at the Wire and help others do the same.

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