Tourism is the business of attracting, accommodating and entertaining tourists, and the business of operating tours. Tourism is the largest single source of private capital into Hawai‘i’s economy. In 2015, there was an average of 214,469 visitors per day in the Hawaiian Islands and Hawai‘i visitors spent, on average, more than $41 million per day in 2015. Hawai‘i tourism supported 170,000 jobs in 2015, highest of any industry. That being said, there are significant problems with the industry and with reliance on it (or any single industry for that matter). Over the years this ever growing industry has reshaped the landscape of the islands with little consideration for the various sensitive eco-systems and the local native culture.
Hawai‘i is home to some of the most diverse eco-systems in the world. The tourism industry has numerous negative consequences for the local flora and fauna. A major contributor to environmental degradation is the tremendous development of infrastructure relating to the tourism industry. From 1985 to 2010 the number of hotel rooms has roughly doubled from around 65 thousand to around 132 thousand. In addition, the energy required to sustain this development will increase the pressure placed on the environment. It has been reported that 60 percent of the animal and plant species in Hawai‘i are considered endangered. The state has imposed laws and appropriate management policies to address this issue, but it lacks the capital to enforce these regulations. Only corporate cooperation with the state government will protect and conserve the fragile environment.
The ever increasing development of Hawai‘i combined with the strengthening tourism industry has led to Native Hawaiians struggling to preserve their culture. To meet the demand of this industry, new hotels are continuously being built and expanded. Almost every major resort development has been built on some culturally significant sight. A prime example of this is the Keonaloa development site where 22 acres of burial grounds were relocated to a one acre plot on the property. This site was then built into the marketing strategy for the resort. This degradation of the environment is has a very large impact on traditional ways of life, as the environment is heavily integrated into cultural and social traditions. Moreover, developing these properties has diminished the ability of Hawaiians to maintain traditional modes of livelihood, such as fishing, gathering food and creating medicine which, in turn, diminishes the meaning of life for cultural practitioners. Furthermore, with growing disparity, Hawaiians are reduced to a limited amount of avenues to satisfy their basic needs.