Ecotourism in Hawaii

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Audrey Love | gingerhillfarm.com

Tourists observe a Hawaiian forest on an ecotourism trip.

For families in the United States, Hawaii is one of the most popular destinations for ecotourism. The popularity of the destination may be hurting the islands more than we realize.

Ecotourism is defined by tourism directed toward exotic, often threatened, natural environments, intended to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife. However, even with the right intentions, the repercussions of such invasive vacations can be massive.

The natural ecosystems of Hawaii are part of the islands’ appeal, but they cannot support the increasing flow of tourists. The hotels, restaurants, and other infrastructure built for tourists replace the luscious tropical forests with busy cities. The areas that still have their natural inhabitants are often disturbed by groups of tourists looking to experience the environment, not realizing that they are disturbing the very thing they seek to learn about and protect.

Activities that come with ecotourism can become a problem for communities if locals are not participating in managing them. Typically, this can happen when an outside ecotourism agency wants to establish tourist activities without the permission of the locals, leading to conflicts between members of the local community and the ecotourism industry.

However, there are many benefits to ecotourism in Hawaii, as well as around the world. This industry provides people with an opportunity to gain new experiences with nature and to learn more about the problems within the environment. Eco-tourists can gain a greater respect for nature once they have observed it up close. If people are given the chance to learn about nature, they are more likely to help protect it.

If the people involved in ecotourism are able to properly manage tourist activities, ecotourism will be able to offer incentives for environmental protection. As the industry can create new jobs, it can bring more substantial sources of revenue that local people can use to help lift their community’s economy to help them achieve sustainable development goals.

The immense natural beauty of the Hawaiian islands understandably draws tourists, specifically eco-tourists, from all over the world. As long as there are proper regulations and ecotourism practices, it is possible to rescue the natural ecosystem from invasive tourists.