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Hawaii: No more tourists please!

Native Hawaiian surfer with alaia board on Wai...

Native Hawaiian surfer with alaia board on Waikiki beach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Native Hawaiian academic and activist Haunani-Kay Trask‘s “Lovely Hula Hands” is severely critical of the huge influx of tourists to Hawaiʻi, which she terms a “prostitution” of Hawaiian culture. She ends her essay with “let me just leave this thought behind. If you are thinking of visiting my homeland, please don’t. We don’t want or need any more tourists, and we certainly don’t like them.”

Trask opposes the tourism industry and the United States military presence in Hawaii. More recently Trask has spoken against the Akaka Bill, a bill to establish a process for Native Hawaiians to gain federal recognition similar to the recognition that some Native American tribes currently possess.

Tourism and the prostitution of indigenous cultures

“Killing Us Softly: Environmental Racism and Cultural Prostitution in Hawai’i and the Pacific Basin
Breaking the Cycle Conference, University of California, Berkeley (2002)

“We are Not Happy Natives”
Ideas at the Powerhouse Conference, Brisbane, Australia (2001)

“Lovely Hula Hands: Corporate Tourism and the Prostitution of Hawaiian Culture”
Law and Society Conference, Berkeley, California (1990)

“Neo-Colonialism and First World Tourism”
Second International Indigenous Women’s Conference, Karasjohka, Samiland, Norway (1990)

“The Effects of Corporate Tourism on Hawaiians”
International Conference on the Political Economy of Tourism in the Third World, sponsored by the World Council of Churches, Bad Boll, Germany (1989)

Haunani-Kay Trask_speech5

The history of Hawaii can be traced through a succession of dominant industries: sandalwood, whaling, sugarcane, pineapple, military, tourism, and education. Since statehood in 1959, tourism has been the largest industry, contributing 24.3% of the Gross State Product (GSP) in 1997, despite efforts to diversify. The gross output for the state in 2003 was US$47 billion; per capita income for Hawaii residents was US$30,441.

Millions of tourists contribute to the tax take by paying the general excise tax and hotel room tax; thus not all taxes come directly from residents.

The cost of living in Hawaii, specifically Honolulu, is quite high compared to most major cities in the United States.

One of the most significant contributors to the high cost of living in Hawaii is the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (also known as the Jones Act), which prevents foreign-flagged ships from carrying cargo between two American ports (a practice known as cabotage). Most U.S. consumer goods are manufactured in East Asia at present, but because of the Jones Act, foreign ships inbound with those goods cannot stop in Honolulu, offload Hawaii-bound goods, load mainland-bound Hawaii-manufactured goods, and continue to West Coast ports. Instead, they must proceed directly to the West Coast, where distributors break bulk and send Hawaiian-bound Asian-manufactured goods back west across the ocean by U.S.-flagged ships.

Hawaiian consumers ultimately bear the expense of transporting goods again across the Pacific on U.S.-flagged ships subject to the extremely high operating costs imposed by the Jones Act. This also makes Hawaii less competitive with West Coast ports as a shopping destination for tourists from home countries with much higher taxes (like Japan), even though prices for Asian-manufactured goods in theory should be cheaper since Hawaii is much closer to Asia.
Hawaii Economy


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