A Little Less Aloha: Hawaii Tells Tourists “Thanks, But No Thanks”

A Little Less Aloha: Hawaii Tells Tourists “Thanks, But No Thanks”


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The island state of Hawaii has long been known for its Aloha spirt. The word “aloha” in Hawaiian is a greeting, that can mean “hello” or “goodbye”, but it is also a means of expressing love and generosity to others. 

Hawaiians are proud of their welcoming nature, even as they recognize that this openness has often proven costly when they have been taken advantage of by outside powers. The ethos of Aloha is also very much part Hawaii’s identity as a tourism center. With tourism accounting for one fifth of the Hawaiian economy.  

Now, however, many in Hawaii are rethinking their openness to outsiders. 

The island state’s dependence on tourism has been a long-simmering tension in the community. With some locals arguing that  tourists are absorbing more and more resources while giving back disproportionately less financially. The advent of COVID-19, has resulted in a strict lockdown in Hawaii, with very few tourists  coming in and those who are being subject to quarantine restriction. That has left some locals wondering if Hawaii might be better off with fewer tourists going forward. 

Bloomberg news wrote about Hawaii’s COVID-19 response  last week saying: 

State parks and Hawaii’s famous beaches have been closed. Hotels are issuing single-use keys, forcing quarantined guests who leave their rooms to go to the front desk and explain why. Airlines have been encouraged to suspend incoming flights. The state’s visitors bureau has asked media organizations to “refrain from publishing any stories about Hawaii that might encourage people to travel to the islands.”

Bloomberg reports that Hawaii’s strict lock down measures – to date  all around 20 tourists who left their hotel rooms without permission have been arrested – is seen as having helped prevent the spread of the potentially deadly virus. As of May 24thHawaii had 643 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with a total of 17 deaths from the illness, according to datafrom John Hopkins Coronavirus Resources Center.

The state is not planning to ease its tourism restrictions any time soon. With Bloomberg reporting that: 

[Hawaii Governor David] Ige has signaled he plans to maintain the tough stance on arriving travelers, even as several parts of the mainland U.S. begin to reopen their economies. While the state has already begun to reopen recreational draws including some state parks, beaches and golf courses with social distancing measures, Ige last week said he planned to extend the travel quarantine through the end of June.

Over on social media, as the Guardian reports, residents have also been asking tourist to stay away.