Not all tourism is good tourism.
A simple concept, isn’t it?
It’s not often that tourists engage in self-reflection or wonder how one man’s paradise can become another man’s exploitation.
We travel to escape the monotony of our everyday lives, but it is constantly forgotten that wherever we escape, the scene of the monotony could be someone else’s.
the Golden Globe winner tv show,”the white lotus,‘ examines this path of tourism among the class elite.
The first season conceptualizes white privilege and its contribution to the exploitation of indigenous people and local communities. The Hawaiian Islands serve as the backdrop for the premiere season, with a cast of mostly white — all wealthy — staying at The White Lotus Resort on Maui.
Yes, while “Aloha!‘ is my current drive for inspiration in life (I keep listening to it as I write this), the actions of resort guests should be anything but.
“Hawaii is a temporary paradise for the outsider,” said third grader Aliyah Siva. “Then the tourists leave and the locals take care of the problems left behind.”
As mainlanders, we are selfish in our abuse of the Hawaiian Islands.
Tourists flock to the sandy beaches to snap photos, bask in the sun and, intentionally or not, contribute to an ongoing water crisis.
Last June, Hawaii experienced a severe drought and residents of Maui were flooded mandatory water restrictions.
The fine for locals in these areas was up to $500 for using water for non-essential activities such as washing their vehicles. The kicker is that the tourism industry forms a consolidated balance sheet 44.7% of the Big Island’s water use was unaffected by these water restrictions.
“The locals had to take care of the visitors”Ellen Ahlness, UW alum and current hgeoscientist, said. “The shift to water as a finite resource underscores the unfair downgrading of tourists to residents.”
The abundance from the tourism industry is depriving local communities of vital resources, and as Indigenous Hawaiians are speaking out and tourists are asking Stop voting Hawaii as a holiday destination, the public still manages not to hear their screams.
Therein lies the question of “good” and “bad” tourism.
Tourism is necessary for many economies, but only if it remains sustainable. When tourism in an economy is harming local communities, the public needs to step back and think.
In Hawaii, a span has developed between the exploitation of natural resources and Hawaiian culture.
“It damages the spirituality of the indigenous people because they see their land as a family entity,” Siva said.
While The White Lotus’ focus is to follow the lives of the tourist elite, the lives of the locals are reduced to smaller bits – subplots to further the show’s main story. It reflects the unfortunate realities Hawaiians are currently facing, even two years after the show’s first run.
“Hawaiian culture was localized,” said Annie Heinze, a Hawaiian-born third-year student. “Because of so many outside influences, it’s not widely used anymore.”
When tourism in the form of Hawaii exists, businesses see it as an opportunity to capitalize on the influx of tourists who buy t-shirts and bumper stickers that say “I love Hawaii.”
“Hawaiian culture becomes nothing more than a costume for entertainment,” Siva said.
Tourist bags then emerge, filled with shops and attractions geared towards the visiting public, not the locals and natives living in the same region.
“When I was walking around, most of the people on the streets were tourists,” said fourth grader Sarah Lai. “One wonders what the true parts of Hawaii are and what parts are being cultivated for tourism.”
If you ask anyone from Hawaii how to be a good tourist, the answer is simple.
“Choose to be a tourist in a respectful way,” Heinze said. “If you come to Hawaii, at least pretend you care.”
The concept of a “good” or “bad” tourist boils down to motivations.
The White Lotus tries to touch on this in its own satirical way.
Guests flock to the resort to regain their balance, united by their inability to see their own privilege. Satire drew on their sympathy for progressive causes while remaining too consumed by their own neuroses to fully understand or actually care.
Their motivation is not to learn, but to escape from themselves.
As they leave the island, those left behind are confronted with the consequences of the guest’s stay.
They traveled to help themselves and they achieved just that, a week-long paradise lost in the clouds of their own selfishness that exemplifies the qualities, I would argue, of a ‘bad tourist’.
Don’t get me wrong, travel is important, even necessary, to the development of the human spirit. We must seek an understanding of other cultures and this can only be achieved by leaving the places we call home.
If you book your next trip hoping to be educated – educated about the country, the culture and the people – you are in theory a good tourist.
It is the pursuit of the commercial aspects of tourism, never venturing past pockets created to fill the minds of unsuspecting vacationers who inherently contribute to the exploitation of a community and its culture, as seen in Hawaii.
“Understand where we come from and respect our culture,” Siva said.
Respect means learning about a culture, and it also means listening to the people of that culture.
When places like Hawaii post announcements urging people not to travel there, it’s not an encouragement, it’s a request from a community and a culture not to keep flooding it.
“Good tourists” and “bad tourists” – these labels mean nothing if people don’t heed their warnings.
“It’s important to remember what land you are on and how you support it,” Siva said.
Tourism as an industry is not exploitative until the tourists make it themselves. Capitalism does not exist without the market, and the tourists in these economies are the market.
Buy local, eat local, don’t stay in resorts and please listen to a community’s cries as they tell you it’s time to stop.
Reach author Emma Schwichtenberg at [email protected] Twitter: @emaroswitz
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