Tourism, Politics and Commercial Culture
With its newfound statehood, Hawaiÿi quickly
became the exotic travel destination of choice for
intrigued mainlanders. It was a time of profound
transition, and the strikingly increasing rates of visitors
spawned a new status for Hawaiÿi—it was birthing a
tourism-based culture. Clearly, Hawaiÿi emanated an
idyllic quality that the other states did not, and tourists
craved the multicultural ambiance.
Suddenly, the Aloha Spirit became a commonplace
column heading in newspapers and a key topic of
political discourse. In 1986, the Aloha Spirit was
written into state law, found in the Hawaiÿi Revised
Statutes—which still exists today. It states, “The ‘Aloha
Spirit’ is the coordination of mind and heart within each
person. It brings each person to the self. Each person
must think and emote good feelings to others.” These
basic doctrines of aloha instilled a remembrance in the
governmental arena that perpetuated cultural roots
and defined Hawaiÿi’s unique subjective paradigm.
Lively lüÿau, poi pounding, hula performances,
and surfing all exuded the island tourism niche that
embraced the spirit of aloha, which also fashioned a
destination image that glimmered commercialism.
Finessed in beach resort branding, mass produced
souvenirs, and as an epochal greeting that’s still
standard, aloha did admittedly shine as an asset that
fueled a healthy economy and lured inquisitive tourists.
This commodified version of aloha is one that
is recognized by most. Has aloha evolved into a
marketing scheme to drive tourism? Some academics
might suggest, pointing its finger in objectivity, that
the Aloha Spirit has been manipulated to fabricate a
culture with profitable aims, while acting as a political
band-aid to relieve multicultural tension. Aloha
becomes like wearing a modish frame of rose-tinted
glasses that promises a therapeutical antidote to life’s
challenges. Has aloha retained its cultural virtue?
Universal Essence of Aloha
Despite its modernized quasi-commercial status,
the Aloha Spirit is not confined to a showy storefront
t-shirt or cutesy morning coffee mug. It contains
within it an unshakeable heritage that is bound by
nothing and undeniably beautiful—a pure essence
that cannot be dominated or destroyed. Perhaps the
external expression of aloha has been forcibly resized
to fit the ever-changing needs of contemporary society.
This present-day rendition of aloha does not devalue
it, but rather presents a warm memento of a rich spirit
with profound cultural and universal significance.
Revered hula master and international Hawaiian
cultural presence Puna Dawson illuminates, “The
Aloha Spirit is from within. It is that spirit of truth that
can be found in every culture—not just Hawaiian. It is
an understanding and appreciation for life…all of life’s
gifts, and how we share them with one another. Aloha
begins with you.”
The Aloha Spirit is a shimmering emanation of
Hawaiÿi that is infinite and irreplaceable. It’s the gentle
reminder to breathe, close your eyes, enjoy the breeze,
hear the birdsong, and smile candidly at a stranger.
Aloha resides in forgiveness, nurturing a friend,
reverence for nature, counting your blessings, and
loving who you are and others. For me, it’s a heartfelt
inhalation that enlivens appreciation for the beauty of
creation and our shared experience as human beings.
Aloha is a mutual understanding for those blessed to
live on the islands—a decree that cannot be reckoned
Although the Aloha Spirit can be found in
abundance on the Garden Isle with seriously few
residents living without, it is not bound to Hawaiÿi, but
instead encompasses a global relevancy.
It ripples across the sapphire ocean to inspire a
righteous vision where family, natural resources and
the connection with oneself and others are cherished.
Throughout history and the present stylish informality
of aloha, the essence remains the same. May you
experience the true legacy of the Aloha Spirit—feeling
its eternal breath of life.
- By Amber Nightingale