Trisha Kehaulani Watson: A Wave Of Entitled Tourists Shows The Need For Action - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Author

Trisha Kehaulani Watson

Trisha Kehaulani Watson is a Kaimuki resident, small business owner, and bibliophile. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Hawaii and J.D. from the William S. Richardson School of Law. She writes about environmental issues, cultural resource management, and the intersection between culture and politics. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can follow or contact her on Twitter at @hehawaiiau.


My husband worked in the hotel industry for 18 years. The stories he shares are hilarious.

  • Tourists asking the front desk when the staff were going to pull turtles up onto the beach for them to see.
  • Tourists asking the staff to “turn down the ocean” because the noise was too loud.
  • Tourists demanding to get into their rooms nine hours early (often when the occupants from the night before were still there).

From tourists who harass monk seals to those who think it’s OK to poop in people’s yards after a hike (often illegal hike), the “reopening” of Hawaii has brought all of this back to the islands like one giant, sunscreen-covered, coconut-sipping, convertible-driving tsunami.

If this is “building back better,” better sucks.

The truth is tourists have been an inconvenience for a long time, like when a fly gets in the house. It’s not going to destroy anything, it’s just annoying. But let’s be honest, many of us were resigned to the fact that tourism is at least better than other industries: coal, steel, factory work.

Slapping on a smile and handing out shell lei is certainly less environmentally and physically taxing than strapping on a helmet and going down a coal mine.

What’s changed? Why the outrage now?

It’s the fact that tourists seem to be less satisfied with enjoying a couple days sipping overpriced drinks and getting their obligatory sunburn on Waikiki Beach. They want adventure! They paid all this money! They’re entitled to the experience they dreamed of. They want authenticity. They want “the real Ha-WHY-ee!”

Well, real Hawaii ain’t here for it.

Our Backyards Aren’t Your Playgrounds

I’m not one for book burning, but if wishing made it so, I’d burn every copy of those books that reveal “secret spots.” I’d torch those apps that do the same, too. They’re a menace, and the idea that people are profiting off of teaching visitors how to trespass and access dangerous sites is frankly appalling.

From Haena to Laniakea to Hana, the influx of tourism and the too-common belief of visitors that they’ve “bought” a vacation that entitles them to go anywhere they want in the islands really boils down to a fundamental disrespect for the place they’re visiting. A disrespect that is fully enabled by authors and app developers happy to capitalize on visitors’ desire to access “secret spots.”

These authors and developers are nothing more than profiteers looking to benefit from the harm they cause others, whether communities now crippled by traffic and trespassers, or natural and cultural resources literally trampled under a stampede of visitors.

Beachgoers enjoy Waikiki Beach as more mainland US visitors arrive to Oahu and the outer islands during COVID19 pandemic.
The recent return of tourism underscores the need for stricter management. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

These apps and books are widely available in ABC Stores, Costco, Longs, at the airport. Communities fed up with tourists flooding their communities should lobby these stores to take these books off their shelves. Lobby app stores to stop carrying these apps.

If we’re serious about stopping these constant floods of bad behavior, there needs to be a mass movement.

  • Stop the distribution of apps and books that encourage tourists to engage in illegal activities, like trespassing.
  • Require airlines to run a video on all incoming flights educating people about proper behavior. (I mean, if we can ask every single person coming into the state if they are carrying fresh fruit, we can do this.)
  • Adequately fund the Department of Land and Natural Resources, especially for enforcement. We should have Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers everywhere. We should also have community steward programs funded through DLNR to help manage areas.
  • Better visitor management. It’s time to simply make areas entirely off limits and to monetize areas for visitors to fund management. (Residents should not have to pay — we pay enough taxes.)

We are beyond our carrying capacity as it is and inviting in hordes of tourists isn’t helping.

I will say I’m slightly hopeful though – with new leadership at the Hawaii Tourism Authority – specifically, Native Hawaiian leaders who seem to embrace the need to manage visitors. There seems to be an unprecedented level of political will to make the changes we need to allow for sustainable tourism that doesn’t adversely impact our communities and resources.

It’s certainly long overdue.


Read this next:

Chad Blair: How Opponents Of COVID Measures Are Stoking Local Resistance


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About the Author

Trisha Kehaulani Watson

Trisha Kehaulani Watson is a Kaimuki resident, small business owner, and bibliophile. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Hawaii and J.D. from the William S. Richardson School of Law. She writes about environmental issues, cultural resource management, and the intersection between culture and politics. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can follow or contact her on Twitter at @hehawaiiau.


Latest Comments (0)

I agree with Trisha. Me & many others found ourselves in a jam when a big tourist bus was driving though Sandy Beach. The bus could not fit causing backed up traffic. Local people are fed up! This happens every day Isn't this why the state spent money to built the lookout neer the blow hole area??? The interior road at Sandy's isn't built wide enough and is crowded as is then here come these giant tour busses of all sizes also stopping & letting people out. Very disrespectful. 

Cummings1 · 1 month ago

Tired of tourist and tourist buses invading your neighborhood or just overrunning the island?  Consider putting up signs in your yard facing the street stating, for example:  "Tourist and Tour Buses Not Welcomed Here.  Go Back Home," etc.  Can you imagine such signs along the streets of Lanikai, Kailua, north shore and other tourist invaded areas?  Now, wouldn't that get the attention and fast action from the tourist industry and government to clean up their acts instead of the usual lip service and glacier-like reactions?  Similar type signs in neighboring yards facing the illegal vacation rental would work as well.  E.g.,  "You are staying at an illegal vacation rental.  Shame on you!  You are not welcomed here.  Please leave our neighborhood."

LarCB2021 · 1 month ago

We're all tourists.  Don't tell me all these people who commented on your article have not been to a tourist area for vacation.  Were they respectful?Did they try to learn about the culture?  More importantly, did they checktheir bad behavior at the door?

LindaU · 1 month ago

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