Let’s say you’re an American with some extra change and a pent-up desire to go somewhere, anywhere, after more than a year spent cooped up. You want to go on vacation, but overseas COVID regulations are so tricky, and Disneyland isn’t novel enough, and if you “escape” to an upstate cabin one more time you’re going to lose your mind. But Hawaii — now there’s a domestic paradise to abscond to. Maybe you’ll book a stay at one of those fancy, all-inclusive resorts that sits right on the beach, where the sunlight dances on the water and dolphins leap in the distance. It could make for a great honeymoon, or a trip for a family of four plus the daughter’s friend, or a woman’s site of mourning after the death of her mother. Yes, Hawaii sounds good.
But guess what: many Hawaiian locals, even the mayor of Maui, don’t want you there. Tourism has always been a curse and a blessing to the islands, a lifeline of cash flow but also a scourge on the quality of life for the people who inhabit the parts of Hawaii beyond hotel property lines. Recently, amid drought conditions in Maui, pushback has become more vocal, as some residents say that they’ve been told to cut back on water usage under threat of fines, while resorts and other tourism-related businesses continue to use up resources.
“Stop coming to Hawai’i. They are treating us like second class citizens, literally cutting off our water to feed over-tourism,” Hawaiian politician Kaniela Ing tweeted in July.
Maui County’s water officials have attempted to correct the narrative, stating that the water systems supplying hotels and Upcountry Maui — where the drought is most severe — are separate. But Ing, speaking to the Washington Post, pointed out: “Who created that infrastructure?” Oh snap...
Whoever is to blame, it doesn’t look like the tourists will stop coming. More than 260,000 people visited Maui in June, almost back up to pre-pandemic numbers. Vacationgoers on their way to suntan, scuba dive, enjoy breakfast buffets, read Frantz Fanon by the pool, lose their devices in the tide, scatter ashes in the ocean, make empty promises to spa managers, find out their father was gay, conduct midnight dalliances with local staff, bully overworked resort managers. And maybe get their asses eaten.