Tourism isn’t always a good thing for locals, so research the pros and cons before you travel to a region.
Believe it or not, traveling can be unethical. Some don’t think of taking time off to relax as a negative, but it sometimes can be.
While tourism can generate money for a region, it can also lead to gentrification, pushing Indigenous residents out. As much of the U.S. gets over COVID-19, Americans also need to think about traveling to places that aren’t heavily vaccinated. Do the research before traveling, and see if the pros for you outweigh the cons for the area.
Hawaii is a great example of a place to not travel to. Now that many people are vaccinated, thousands of people have been flying to Hawaii. A lot of tourists aren’t following safety protocols such as wearing masks, which could potentially spread new variants on the islands.
Native Hawaiians tend to fill essential worker jobs resulting in the Native population being heavily hit by COVID-19. Native Hawaiians only make up 25 percent of Hawaii’s population but 40 percent of the positive COVID-19 cases in the region.
Of course, tourism is a big part of Hawaii’s economy, so many think it’s actually generous of them to travel there. However, most residents think visitors should stop coming. This may be due to a number of things besides COVID-19. A lot of businesses that make money from tourism are chains like Hilton or Marriott. While they employ locals, Native Hawaiians usually fill low-income jobs so tourism doesn’t do much to help them.
Tourism can also price residents out of their homes. This is often due to Airbnbs and mainland people buying vacation homes. A bunch of houses are now strictly for rich tourism, changing and pushing out the community. Gentrification is an issue everywhere and Hawaii is no different.
Commodifying Hawaiian culture by selling hula skirts without discussing the significance of hula or acknowledging Hawaii’s colonial past is another part of tourism. People don’t realize that although they learn fun Hawaiian words on their trip, the U.S. banned the language from being taught in schools until 1986.
Hawaii’s ecosystem can also be harmed by tourism. Tourism pushes for more new buildings to be constructed, more golf courses and more private beaches. This takes away land from the people.
People are forced from their homes to build new resorts that benefit tourists, not locals. Hawaii contains over 40 percent of the U.S. endangered and threatened species list and tourism waste can pollute these ecosystems.
Sure, it may be possible to lessen the harm by buying from small locally owned businesses, throwing away trash and using reef-safe sunscreen. But most harmful things are built into Hawaiian tourism. Tourists are supporting a harmful industry no matter what.
Hawaii is just an example of this, but there are a ton of other popular tourist destinations like Bali, Bora Bora, the Galapagos and more that are affected.
There are many places where travel can negatively affect the Native residents. If you want to travel ethically, research what locals say about tourism as well as the economic and environmental ramifications of tourism in a certain region.
Anna Baker is an English senior who can be reached at [email protected]