December 3, 2023

Travel Hawaii

It's Your Travel Hawaii

Hawaii Summer Travel Starts: Dizzying Influx, Towering Frustrations

Hawaii Summer Travel Starts:  Dizzying Influx, Towering Frustrations

The long-anticipated Hawaii summer tourism crunch officially gets underway today with more traffic, sold-out activities, longer lines at restaurants and crowding at beaches as Hawaii tensely prepares to welcome over 10 million annual visitors, or nearly 8x our population this year. As you’ll see in the chart from the state below, domestic arrivals are tracking well ahead of all previous years. Domestical arrivals disproportionately impact neighbor islands which see fewer international visitors than Oahu.

Residents and visitors alike are going to be on edge until the slow season starts in the middle of August. Both groups are bracing for an onslaught of arrivals and whatever they may need to endure. We’d like to think we are all in this together, and want to have the best possible situation for all of us.

And we’re still getting asked, “Does Hawaii hate visitors?”

The simple and obvious answer is no as we prepare to welcome an unprecedented number of guests over summer, while coping with, in many ways, woefully inadequate resources. We join you in not liking to see either visitors or residents lumped in with even a small bunch of bad eggs. And yet, it’s busy, probably too busy given our limited abilities, and there’s truth to overly demanding and expectant travelers damaging the Hawaii travel experience, especially at the peak of summer.

Speaking of how Hawaii residents feel about tourism, the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) last year released of a Resident Sentiment Survey. “It found that while many are concerned with the visitor industry’s growth, the majority of Hawaii residents believe that tourism is worth the issues associated with the industry.”

A commentor said, “On many forums there seems to be an underlying resentment and hatred toward visitors, no matter how respectful we are. It really feels like many feel like they have the right to price gouge us at every turn (getting their 5 pounds of flesh) for visiting. It also seems like some want to treat us like visitors to “Disney” as this narrative keeps getting thrown around. Is this how Hawaiians truly feel or is this some “bad actors” trying to scare off visitors?”

For us and for you, let’s take a break during this ultimate summer of Hawaii revenge travel.

No doubt about it, we’re already seeing it even before the summer crunch officially gets underway today. For the next couple of months, we are going to experience more traffic, crowding and frustration as Hawaii prepares to welcome over 10 million annual visitors, or nearly 8x our population this year.

One reader had a solution for Kauai traffic, “A road connecting the north and south over the powerline trail will never happen, but how about a bike trail? How about a tram? … get tourists from Po’ipu to Ha’ena without traversing the perimeter.” What do you think?

Where we see frustrations with overtourism in Hawaii.

  • Traffic congestion. It takes awhile to traverse from one side of an island to the other with the number of cars. You’ll notice this on all the islands, but for us, it is most noticeable in Honolulu traffic, Maui traffic, and Kauai traffic. Have you tried driving from Kahului Airport to Kaanapali lately? Oh my. Even during off-peak hours there can be traffic jams. During the summer you’re going to need to allow even more time to reach your destinations unharried.
  • Worker shortages remain that exacerbate overtourism issues. Definitely a Catch-22. We have enough visitors to fill restaurants and activities, but not enough staff to serve them. That can result in long wait times with sometimes reduced hours, or seeing the “sold out” sign more. With hospitality industry worker shortages continuing, plus congested roads and 90-minute restaurant waiting times not infrequent when you can even get in, both locals and visitors easily get frustrated.
  • Disrespect for Hawaii. Whether it is trespassing or touching monk seals. These stand out and they’re troubling.
  • Lack of understanding of Hawaii issues. Return visitors know that Hawaii works differently than the mainland does. What words on the mainland may not here. Part of coming to Hawaii is being respectful of local culture and ways.
  • Since Hawaii travel restarted, we have noticed a distinct big difference in the attitude of some visitors. While it is a minority, there seem to be more inconsiderate visitors, something that used to be much more rare.

Hawaii’s ease of access has turned out to be its nemesis.

No question, Hawaii is easy to get to. And that’s part of the problem, and the allure. Today there’s good news on international travel with the elimination of Covid testing requirements for those of us who travel internationally. Nonetheless, 2022 is the summer of Hawaii travel, and domestic travel in general, more so than that of international travel. Next year could look entirely different.

The official arrival numbers from HTA will be slow-coming, but when they do, we’ll reflect that this was the summer of all summers here in Hawaii.

How you can help during your Hawaii vacation.

  • We keep saying this, but sometimes it falls on deaf ears. Whenever possible, delay your summer Hawaii vacation until late summer (mid-August) or after. Choose to come when overtourism and all its issues aren’t as much of an issue.
  • Let’s all treat each other gently, even if it’s easier to say than to do. When you visit us here, we want to share our Aloha with you. We seek your help in respecting Hawaii and its residents, and in protecting it for all of us today and for future generations.

Hawaii remains one of the most in-demand and iconic vacation destinations worldwide.

From the state, our domestic arrivals are on track to exceed all previous records.

Hawaii domestic visitor arrivals 2022

Please share your thoughts on the situation this summer in Hawaii.


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