Locals say ‘we want our beaches back’
By Patti Pietschmann, Travel Diva reporting live from Maui
Hawaii newspapers and TV stations are covering huge protests by residents of Maui who are vociferously complaining about the influx of tourists. Some folks are so angry that they are getting off the island. Others are carrying “Take Back our Beaches” signs.
But isn’t tourism Hawaii’s mainstay?
Let me get this straight. Tourism is Hawaii’s major, if not only, industry. It keeps people employed in hotels, restaurants and tourist activities and attractions. And they are complaining? Why?
Well one local business person says some of the angst has to do with people collecting more in weekly unemployment checks than they make a jobs. And now they have freedom to go the parks, beaches et al but don’t like the crowds and lack of parking spaces.
Maui’s even mulling over charging tourists to park at the beach
According to the Honolulu Star “Maui residents got up early one Saturday, armed with beach chairs, umbrellas and towels to flood Wailea Beach and push back the increasing ranks of tourists who have been flocking to the island.” You see, the locals got used to having the island to themselves after COVID-19 virtually shut down the visitor industry.
“Residents are uncomfortable in our own space. We want the government and tourists to feel for themselves exactly how uncomfortable we are,” said a community activist who organized the “Take Back Our Beach” event, promising more to come until action is taken.
Faster than expected recovery
Travelers are hitting Maui hard, and it was unexpected. The surge in visitors is creating unprecedented hostility. But not all locals feel the same. Mike, a long-time resident and hotel worker says he welcomes the return of tourism. “We need the revenue. Visitors mean more job openings and people need to work.”
Real estate business booming
In addition to tourists dollars, Maui is also experiencing an increase in sales of homes and condos at huge prices. And because of attractive prices some residents are selling out and moving away.
“I’m retiring and getting outta here,” said a long time resident. “I made some big sales. I just can’t take all the crowds and visitors who aren’t following the protocols of mask and distancing.”
Having been on Maui for two weeks and a month last November I haven’t noticed this. I see most people distancing and wearing masks. And, the Maui News reports that most of the new cases of COVID19 are residents who are not following the rules and clustering.
According to an article in the Star, The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, the state agency in charge of managing Hawaii’s tourism recovery, is even at risk.
“The Hawaii Senate has proposed cutting HTA’s coming annual appropriation to $48 million from $79 million. On and state Legislature.”
It is mind-blogging that it appears Maui and other Hawaiian islands are biting the hand that feeds them. and has for eons.
Yes it’s understandable that locals loved having the place to themselves for a year during the travel embargo. Hawaii continues to make it difficult for people to visit with its strict COVID19 testing rules and regulations. And guess what? Many business owners aren’t happy about that. They need the revenue.
But you can’t always get what you want, even in paradise.