COVID-19 Disruptions Driving Sustainable Tourism: A Case of the Hawaiian Tourism Industry


  • Maryanne Eva Ponts Business School
  • Mark Esposito Écoles des Ponts Business School, Canada



COVID-19 Pandemic, Green Economy, Hawai’i, Resilience, Shared Value, Sustainable tourism


This study inquires about the COVID-19-generated momentum and how it resulted in transformative opportunities for the hard-hit tourism industry in Hawai’i. A single embedded case study has been selected to explore the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic-generated momentum for the risk-prevalent industry and identify sustainability-based management strategies within the tourism industry in Hawai’i’s small island economy. Documentation and archival records analysis paired with direct observations performed during the 2022 Hawai’i Tourism Conference exposed the pivot taken by the Hawai’i Tourism Authority and the four island counties, toward rebuilding, redefining, and resetting the tourism industry in accelerating the timeline for sustainable and regenerative tourism. Findings indicate that actors from the tourism industry in Hawai’i perceived the COVID-19 pandemic as a huliau, or a point of transformation, to reflect and reevaluate the tourism industry's responsibility and shift toward a recovery focused on sustainability. This research confirms that the pandemic-driven momentum accelerated opportunities for changing and transforming traditional business models and indicators of progress within the tourism industry in Hawai’i and it revealed that the Hawai’i Tourism Authority and the four island counties adopted new management and collaborative approaches and measures of success to rebuild, redefine, and reset the directions of tourism. Further research may explore additional Pacific Island countries to gain a deeper understanding of the problem within the region’s context.