HI - In Hawaii, Reimagining Tourism for a Post-Pandemic World
Before Covid, ‘tourism was at this point where everything was about tourists.’ With the one-year anniversary of travel’s collapse, the state, like other overtouristed places, is hoping for a reset.
For a visitor who was on the island of Oahu in 2019 when a record 10.4 million people visited Hawaii, returning to Honolulu nearly a year after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic is breathtaking.
At Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, souvenir shops and nearly all food vendors have closed. In neighborhoods around the state’s capital, restaurants and bars, tour operators and travel agencies have shuttered permanently, and many that remain appear to be shells of the popular jaunts they were before the pandemic. Hotels with skeleton staffs. No tourist-filled buses blocking the entrances to attractions. Plenty of room to move on sidewalks without bumping shoulders.
Meanwhile, the state continues to solidify its reopening procedures for travelers from the mainland and international destinations as well as between the islands.
And yet, according to one survey by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the agency charged with promoting Hawaii around the world, about two-thirds of Hawaiians say they still do not want tourists to return to the islands.
“Before the pandemic, tourism was at this point where everything was about tourists,” said Lindsey Ozawa, a farmer and chef in He’eia on Oahu. “Tourism had become extractive and hurtful, with tourists coming here and taking, taking, taking, taking, without any reciprocation with locals.”