Maui locals fume about tourists after wildfire

Updated Aug 15, 2023, 1:33pm EDT
Maui memorial
Sandy Hooper/USA Today Network via REUTERS
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Diego Mendoza/

Hawaiians are becoming increasingly frustrated with tourists as thousands remain in Maui after the deadly wildfires, despite pleas from locals and officials to leave. Many more tourists have arrived in Maui since the fires, including socialite Paris Hilton.

"You're kind of raised to hate tourists,"1 one Maui local and hotel employee told the BBC. Many residents said the fires highlighted the "two Hawaiis" phenomenon: one built for the comfort of tourists and the other "harsher Hawaii left to Hawaiians."

Tourism "normalizes and conceals the current dystopian reality"2 of poverty and climate change experienced by local Hawaiians, one activist told CNN last year. Over-tourism has contributed to the destruction of ancestral land and Hawaii's ecosystem, with Maui residents in 2021 begging tourists to stop visiting during a water shortage crisis3 . Other locals have been working on creating new tourist experiences that prioritize education about colonization, militarization, and tourism over beach days.

But tourism carries Hawaii's economy. Economists this year predicted that even if the U.S. slid into a recession, Hawaii would be unaffected because tourism has helped ebb4 the state's inflation rate and gotten the economy to bounce back from the pandemic much more quickly than other states.

Gov. Josh Green is considering a temporary ban5 on sales of property damaged by the fires because locals are worried developers will "steal land." Even before the disaster, Maui was facing a severe housing shortage with prices rising6 every year.