Native Hawaiian Is Urging People to Vacation Elsewhere and Explains Why

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lily Hi'ilani Okimura (@hiilanilily)

For those looking to Hawai’i for a tropical getaway, Native Hawaiian Lily Hi'ilani Okimura has a message: please don’t come. Okimura regularly posts content about the issues affecting Pacific Islanders, and one recurring topic is tourism. The islands of Hawai’i have long been tourist destinations; in 2019, a record 10.4 million people visited the islands. This decreased during the first year of the pandemic, but in 2021 the crowds returned—even though tourists were asked to vacation elsewhere.

Tourism has proven harmful to Native Hawaiians. “A lot of tourists treat our land like it's some theme park,” Okimura explains. “They will ignore warning signs, fenced-off areas, and ‘no trespassing' signs, which can cause damage to our environment like erosion, vandalism, and pollution.” This includes approaching endangered animals when it is strictly off-limits. “For example, tourists will try to go near and touch monk seals and turtles at the beach, despite having MULTIPLE signs at our beaches warning people that these are endangered species and touching them will result in them paying a fine.”

“When people say they should be able to visit Hawai'i because ‘it's part of the United States,' I tell them they're missing the point. Sure, you have the ‘right' to travel wherever you want, but does that make it right?” Okimura continues. “Especially if the Indigenous people and other residents are asking visitors not to come due to a worldwide pandemic, our limited resources, and because our tourism industry exploits our people and culture. What does that say about you to disregard all of this because ‘What about my vacation?'”

Waikiki Coastline

Waikiki coastline (Photo: SergiyN/Depositphotos)

Tourism doesn’t benefit most Native Hawaiians. Those who do work in the industry are overworked and underpaid. A majority (51%) of those experiencing homelessness on the islands are natives. Instead, tourism benefits large corporations and developers that are, by and large, not from Hawai’i.

If tourists are determined to visit Hawai’i, Okimura offers some ways to minimize the harm. One way is to avoid giving money to the hotel industry and Airbnbs, which non-residents mostly own. It's best to stay with someone they know who already lives there. Another way is to experience Hawai’i beyond the typical touristy activities. Learn some of ōlelo Hawai'i (the Hawaiian language), and be sure to buy from locally-owned restaurants and businesses, particularly Native Hawaiian-owned. And finally, visitors should leave things as they found them. Pick up trash and don’t take anything from the environment like sand or rocks.

“Native Hawaiians have a deep connection to the ʻāina, the land,” Okimura shares. “We consider ourselves stewards of the land, and it is our kuleana, our responsibility, to take care of it, because in return, it takes care of us.”

For those looking to Hawai’i for a tropical getaway, Native Hawaiian Lily Hi'ilani Okimura has a message: please don’t come.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lily Hi'ilani Okimura (@hiilanilily)

“A lot of tourists treat our land like it's some theme park,” Okimura explains. “They will ignore warning signs, fenced-off areas, and ‘no trespassing' signs, which can cause damage to our environment like erosion, vandalism, and pollution.”

@hiililylani Also, just don’t touch wild animals? Did you not take bio class 💆🏽‍♀️ #fyp #hawaii #hawaiian #kanakamaoli #hawaiianmonkseal #tourism #endangered ♬ original sound – Lily Hiʻilani Okimura

If tourists are determined to visit Hawai’i, Okimura offers some ways to minimize the harm.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lily Hi'ilani Okimura (@hiilanilily)

One way is to avoid giving money to the hotel industry and Airbnbs, which non-residents mostly own.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lily Hi'ilani Okimura (@hiilanilily)

Another way is to experience Hawai’i beyond the typical touristy activities.

@hiililylani #stitch with @mndiaye_97 common mistakes people make about Hawaiʻi #fyp #foryou #hawaii #hawaiian #kanakamaoli #pineapple #indigenous ♬ original sound – Lily Hiʻilani Okimura

And finally, visitors should leave things as they found them. Pick up trash and don’t take anything from the environment like sand or rocks.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lily Hi'ilani Okimura (@hiilanilily)

Lily Hi'ilani Okimura: Instagram | TikTok
h/t: [BuzzFeed]

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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