Hawaii Wants Europeans To Learn To Be More “Respectful” Before Visiting

Hawaii has awarded a new tourism marketing contract for a campaign that lays out what kind of travel they want to attract. In particular, as they’re desperate to drive a resurgence in Maui visits, they want Europeans to:

  1. Be more respectful
  2. Spend more

Strategic efforts will educate European visitors about traveling mindfully and respectfully while supporting Hawaii’s communities and economy. Focus will also be placed on driving visitor spending…

There will be an “emphasis on lifetime trip expenditures and increasing per person, per day expenditures.”

Europeans represented 14% of tourism spend in Hawaii pre-pandemic. Pitching to them that they should return, they’re telling Europeans to learn to be respectful prior to coming. The marketing buzzword is ‘mindful’ but they never say what it – or respectful – means. That’s intentional. It’s a government-sponsored campaign, so they’re navigating two goals.

  • Many locals who hate tourists
  • An economy that’s dependent on tourists

There has been talk of restricting tourists from the best beaches on weekends and plenty of scapegoating Airbnb for problems that are the result of local policy. It’s always easy to blame outsiders.

Hawaii’s Governor has said he wants less low-dollar tourism. Basically they want fewer people who spend more, and if they must have more people they want more people who spend more. This accomplishes two things.

  • It may mean greater prosperity for Hawaiians in tourism industries, so maybe they’ll be less bitter about outsiders visiting.
  • But if they aren’t, at least those visits will be more lucrative for large business owners dependent on tourism and who support politicians.

In other words, if there’s going to be political heat over tourism, the juice is more worth the squeeze for politicians feeling the heat.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Went there last year and Holy Large Denominations Badman! Worth going, but it won’t be a regular vacation destination for me. I might go back some day, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they start requiring a credit check before issuing a travel visa.

  2. Give us a lot of money and we will give you the crumbs when we are done. Plenty of places to spend money where the people aren’t phony. I have no plans for going to Hawaii ever. I would call it fly over country but it is not even that.

  3. So I was curious…for 2022 European arrivals were 34% Germany, 33% UK, 12% France, 12% Switzerland, 9% Italy. I am guessing the Swiss are not the ones tearing the place up but could be wrong. In general, a bit surprised that Hawaii has an issue with low-dollar tourism from Europe…seems like a long way to fly for a stag party…

  4. Isn’t the vast amount of Maui tourism rich folk going from airport to gated resort and back ala the White Lotus season 1?

    Where and to whom does this disrespectful mindfulness take place?

    The few that venture off resort must really muck it up for the rest of us, like college kids living off campus…

  5. A lot of people are not respectful when they travel. Americans are almost the worst, but Brits may actually win. (Note: I’m a British born person living in America and have two passports).

    There are undoubtedly people trampling all over sacred sites (because they do that in Europe. Loud cell phone conversations in Notre Dame should…not…be a thing), saying racist things about the original inhabitants, etc.

    I’m not saying anyone who reads this blog falls into that category, but honestly if you read this blog you *know* the people I talk about who, as Steven says, “really muck it up for the rest of us.”

    When you are in somebody else’s land, you are a guest and should act accordingly. And I count going to another U.S. state, even in the lower 48, in this. The culture in Wyoming is not the same as the culture in New York. Respect people and you will have a much better experience.

  6. They need to stop thinking like this is the best place to visit. There are so many other places inside and out the U.S. that will put this roach ridden volcano laden place to shame. Be glad Anybody wants to come there.

  7. I find it hard to believe that the troublesome tourists in Hawaii are coming from Europe. The only Europeans that are likely to go to Hawaii are in the more wealthy categories and they are likely spending the week in their gated resort

  8. Aloha my a-hola. I gave up on Hawaii a decade ago. SE asia is so much better in almost every way. Better food, better service, lower prices, friendlier people. The only thing Hawaii has is clearer water…but if you want clear water then there are other places to go that isn’t filled with people that hate you. Seriously, how weak do you have to be to knowingly give money to people who hate you? Do you have no self respect?

  9. I gave up on Hawaii in 1997…I remember thinking why would I spend so much time, effort and money on a place that was so obviously hostile and really no better than other places I’ve traveled? No regrets twenty six years later…

  10. So I can appreciate that every tourism driven place is full of residents who hate tourists. The issue is the residents have no say and no other choice.

    But yeah I’d give my money to places with the decency to pretend not to hate me.

    Aloha my AHOLA – I am stealing this!

  11. Yeah. I loved Hawaii, but the hate from many of the locals was palpable. Try driving slow on the Road to Hana and you will feel like you’re about to be overtaken by the trucks in Mad Max. My family and I were respectful and that didn’t shield us from glares and comments from “locals”.

    I frankly won’t be back. Like Mantis said, what kinds of self-respect makes you want to be shit on by people you’re (ultimately) helping support by visiting.

  12. Reading the comments here, it is very difficult to understand why anyone would think travelers and tourists need to be reminded to be respectful of the places they’re visiting.

  13. No one should have to tell you to be respectful when visiting. It should come as natural as breathing. As far as spending that’s up to the traveler how much they want to spend.

  14. Hawaii wants to be a market exclusively for the big-spending rich? Well so does every other place under the sun that relies on tourism! What an innovative marketing concept. Hope they didn’t pay too much for it.

    If they’d stop to think about what the rich require service and quality-wise, they’d instantly know that HI could never corner that market and survive on it alone.

  15. Jennifer p nailed it. You find what you bring when you travel, to Hawaii or anywhere else. I live in Hawaii and have plenty of interaction with tourists. The vast majority love it, have a great time and appreciate it’s unique beauty. Obviously if you have a chip on your shoulder as a certain percentage of tourists do (welcome to the new America, where facts take second place to conspiracy and innuendo thanks to social media and 24 hour cable “news”) you open yourself up to people that don’t appreciate that. The State has been grappling with overcrowding issues for awhile and the post Covid revenge travel mixed with the onslaught of budget travelers not supporting local shops and restaurants and yes, some being very disrespectful, really drove that home. Because we are an island it’s even more burdensome then many other places .

  16. @john w
    john, that is fine, your argumenbts are valid, but, that said, hawaii can not pick and choose and say they are overrun by tourists and then after the fire beg people to come back
    you just can’t have it both ways

  17. Every place wants less tourists but ones who spend more money. If that’s their big idea they need some fresh ones. As to a tourist-hating society, try visiting Nassau in the Bahamas some time. Outside of sand the Bahamas has zero natural resources but in the capital they’re pretty clear about their contempt for the people keeping their economy afloat.

  18. Doug, I agree that the timing of dealing with the pre Lahaina over crowding issue and now the need to rejuvenate tourists is bad planning. Our Government has an issue with turf building and nepotism that’s coming home to roost. I don’t have an answer.

  19. I should say that the current Governor and Mayor of Honolulu actually show some promise. There has been a lot of partisan “alternative facts” aimed at Josh Green but the reality seems to be his heart is in the right place…we’ll see.

  20. Living in NorCal makes Hawaii an easy destination with frequent and low cost non stop air service. Usually visit Maui a couple of times a year. Was on Kauai last week and decided to fly over to Maui for lunch at Mama’s. I can report OGG was empty. My one day rental car was $39 plus fees. Considered spending the night, however the limited hotel options were extremely expensive, so back to Kauai after.

    No doubt there are residents who resent tourists, however I have personally never encountered this after many visits. This trip was no different. Go, don’t go…up to you, but if you do go, don’t trespass, don’t litter, don’t illegally park, be friendly, you should have a great trip.

  21. This has nothing to do with bad tourists. I’m highly confident that better and wealthier tourists visit Hawaii than many other locations. This has everything to do with Hawaiians, or possibly more likely transplants to Hawaii, feeling they are more precious than the rest of the world. Case in point; Lahaina catastrophe occurs and an overwhelming amount of public support, thoughts, and money come pouring in to help an island which is arguably one of the most expensive and increasingly restrictive to visit. How do a large number of them respond? “Show us respect”. Seriously? I haven’t read one thank you in social media. While there are many Maui businesses actively inviting tourists to return, there are a mountain of people on that island talking about how disrespectful we all are. I say they are acting like spoiled children and this has nothing to do with disrespectful tourists. Granted there have been people (I will not agree this is only a tourist problem, I’m positive locals have also done this) taking photos of themselves in the damaged areas. But when this happens in other areas of catastrophe, we don’t hear the locals ignoring the fact that huge amounts of financial aid is arriving, and we don’t hear locals demanding that outsiders show respect. We hear locals who are appreciative of the aid being provided. MY RESPONSE TO HAWAII is that you should be showing us respect rather than insulting us.

  22. @Robert, sorry pal I have to point out what mindful travel means to me. “Driving slowly” to take in the sights while backing up traffic on the only road for people to get home on is why you may have gotten stink eye from a couple locals in a truck. The mindful thing to do on any island that has only one through road is to go the speed limit and pull over to take in the beauty. I’ve seen people stop on Kam Hwy on Oahu to take a picture and then proceed after backing up traffic. I’ve also seen tourists back up traffic waiting for a parking space rather then drive a few hundred yards down the road. The “all about me” mentality can be very difficult to be polite to.

  23. We’ve been there several times over the years including last year, driven around/within several of the islands, patronized local small businesses and restaurants, always enjoyed respectful interactions with the locals, never experienced any hostility.

  24. Instead of complaining when there’s too many tourist then complaining when not enough tourist then complaining when tourists are too cheap… how about creating a self sustaining economy free of tourists. Hawaii, stop prostitutionalizing yourself and stand on your own legs. The view is much better than laying on your back.

  25. Ely you too found what you brought. Most tourists are like you. @Becket, respect is a two way street, showing up and demanding to be respected is one of the big issues people here have with some tourists. The Hawaiians have always been a truly kind and giving people, they introduced the world to the Aloha spirit. Sadly some tourists just don’t respond to Aloha with mutual kindness and respect.

  26. JohnW you are off base. The roads are for public use. If somebody’s going slow and that’s affecting you? You should’ve left earlier. If you are in a hurry, YOU are in a hurry. OTHERS may not be. If slow tourist traffic is a chronic problem, work with local government to find a solution using modern traffic management techniques. If there’s no solution, accept that this is your commute in a special part of the country. Take it or leave it.

    If tourists to your place need a guide on how to behave, it’s YOU who has a stick up your ass.

    I love Amsterdam because I googled etiquette guides, what not to do in Amsterdam? The answer: “it is hard to be rude in this city.”

    If it’s easy to be rude in your city YOU ARE A DIVA WITH TOO MANY RULES

  27. Respect is NOT A TWO WAY STREET when there is a customer relationship. When I walk into a Ritz I expect to be called Sir and my beautiful wife to be called Ma’am. I don’t use those honorifics in return.

  28. I saw some comments about rich people staying only in gated resorts. That is not how it is in Hawaii. The resorts are nice but most of the activities are on the outside of the resorts. I have been all over four of the islands. It is not like going to Sandals in Jamaica.

  29. After having visited 3 times in the past decade (from the East Coast of the US) I will happily spend my hard earned money where we aren’t looked down upon.

    They truly think they can have it both ways. News flash: yea, you have a nice destination, but there’s many more in the world just as nice, and they’re much more welcoming than you. They can get bent and enjoy the fall in tourism dollars. Good riddance.

  30. I agree that respect has to be earned. And people will spend more IF the prices are lower.
    Croatia has Hawaii beaten in every way. And if tourism is not paying Hawaiins enough…..get another job !!!! Cut grass, fish, do construction work, clean…..list goes on.

  31. Haha Buh-bye I LOVE IT! Hawaii should very much get bent. I’m from the Midwest and we are aligned. Let’s get some West Coasters in here and then the whole CONUS can in unison tell Hawaiians where to shove it (somewhere that shares the last three letters of CONUS).

  32. A lot of travellers like Hawaii for many reasons … but a big reason is that a week in Hawaii is ‘safe’. They understand the language, can read the signs, know what the menus are offering. They can ask for directions, get answers to questions, easily communicate. I’ve never felt the need to visit more than every ten years or so, mostly when nothing else appeals at that moment in time. Hawaii is just … boring. Pleasant but boring.

  33. Doug, Txp,jns (x100 … “EVER”), Dave, i make love in lavs, Mantis, I havemyowngorgeousbeachthanks, Robert (please abide by “FRANKLY” now), Beckett (straight up delusional),localboz(dude u can’t be “local”), buh bye, all others with your beautiful mindset. MAHALOS!! True haoles.

  34. In order to promote economic prosperity and political support, Hawaii’s new tourism marketing specifically targets Europeans and encourages civilized travel and more spending.

  35. Here’s an inconvenient truth: “ALOHA” was always a cheap tourist trick with no basis in reality. It’s a throw away line that locals have turned into some kind of cult-like brand for the islands. Reminds me of mass psychosis. They have convinced themselves that they have a warm, welcoming culture. Not so much.

  36. Wow, “I told you so” …..what a profoundly ( and I don’t mean this in a name calling way) ignorant perspective. I can’t educate you but try watching the movie “Waterman”……the story of Duke Kahanamoku and it’s message about Aloha. Sadly so much of the vitriol aimed at Hawaii when it has suffered such a terrible tragedy seems to have it’s roots in the KKK/MAGA fervor sweeping part of the mainland. They just don”t like non white people. I hope that’s not where you’re coming from. But it’s most definitely not an “inconvenient truth”…that’s an odd perspective dude.

  37. Reply to John W:

    After 17 trips (stretching out over 4 of the islands), it’s not conjecture on my part. It’s fact.

    You go there for the physical beauty, diving, beaches, etc. And just deal with the hostility the best you can.

  38. The Hawaiian’s are a wonderfully kind and giving people. They are a huge component in what has made Hawaii so popular of a destination and rightfully regarded as the land of Aloha. That said, some locals do have a low tolerance for rude, self centered arrogant behavior. It can bring down the wrath of some locals. They can only tolerate jerks so much. Can’t really blame them.
    The fact that after “17 visits”! you feel you are in a position to make such a blanket statement, especially now when Hawaii is suffering through a horrific tragedy would tend to indicate that perhaps your behavior may be suspect and you invited the reaction you got by your behavior. You need to ask yourself why so many people who visit Hawaii have a very different experience then you have. In other words the explanation for why you have a negative interaction with people when you travel to Hawaii is right there in your bathroom mirror when you wake up.

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