A Hawaiian Point of View
The Kanaka maoli ("Native Hawaiian") experience of
tourism has been paradoxical in that, although it has introduced the world
to the compelling values of our traditional culture – such as the "aloha
spirit" – it has also prostituted our culture as a tool for marketing
and entertainment. Although it has the potential of creating jobs
and contributing to our economies, it has also been the root source of
several social, cultural and economic problems. And, although it creates
opportunities for cultural sharing, it most often takes from our communities
and gives little back.
As the indigenous people of Hawai‘i, we have always welcomed
visitors in the spirit of ho‘okipa ("hospitality") and we have substantially
adopted Western ways. Yet, we are increasingly adversely affected
by the massive scale and intrusive character of tourism in our islands,
and we have recently begun rediscovering and reaffirming our traditional
ways. We assert a prior claim to these islands and their resources,
and we are now reasserting our fundamental responsibility for aloha
‘aina ("love for the environment").
We recognize the right of all people to leisure and the freedom
of travel for recreation in its fullest sense. We welcome those who
respect our dignity and who are willing to adapt to our ways of living,
thinking and relating. Our right to reshape and continue traditional
lifestyles and to maintain our privacy is, however, of greater importance.
We observe that many tourists are not satisfied with their
personal experience of our islands. Many are motivated by an alternative
vision of travel based on the ideals implicit in spiritual journey, pilgrimage,
personal renewal, life discovery and learning. Crass commercialism,
massive over-development and institutionalized racism limit their ability
to connect with the "paradise" promised by tourism advertising. They
yearn for precisely the kind of personal experience that kanaka maoli
are most capable of facilitating.
An authentic tourism is, therefore, one in which kanaka
maoli participate not as objects, but as active subjects. Not
as dependents on tourism as the driver of our economies, but as shapers
of the culture, the ‘aina, and the spirit of ho’okipa on
which tourism depends for its success.
Despite the oppression which has stunted our development
and limited our power to control our own lives and environment, we are
discovering anew our inherent power based both on our inalienable rights
and on the potential for significant support for our struggle from tourists
Therefore, any decision to further develop tourism has to
be weighed carefully with its possible outcomes, both positive and negative,
as well as the opportunity costs of developing other economic sectors,
which are often more crucial for our subsistence. Moreover, we assert
the right of consensual participation in all decisions relating to tourism
development which are likely to affect our life in any way. The interests
of our indigenous people are primary in such decision-making.
We demand ethical business practices from the tourism industry.
In relating to kanaka maoli as hosts, we expect the industry and
its clients to abide and be governed by laws and regulations of our islands
and not to abuse their relative advantage provided by superior economic
Moreover, images used in advertising and promotion material
should be fair and honest representations of kanaka maoli reality.
Our material poverty is not "exotic," certainly not to us. Tourist should
be encouraged to expand their recreational and entertainment experience
to include education about the places and peoples of our islands which
they visit. Our women, children, cultural sites and artifacts should
not be turned into tourist attractions and subject to exploitation in any
form. In order to provide tourists with an enjoyable time, our people
have to work much harder, often under dehumanizing conditions. We
appreciate tourist sensitivity towards those of us who serve in hotels,
restaurants, shops and related ventures.
Finally, rapid tourism development in recent decades has
meant that a substantial investment in upgrading our infrastructure, such
as airports, roads, and utilities, has crowded our urgently needed investment
in our ecostructure, such as reef, forest and community life. For
these reasons and for the foreseeable future, kanaka maoli concerns
for culture and the ‘aina must take precedence in determining the
allocation of available investment funds.
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