Hawaii Fails To Make Conde Naste Traveler Popular Destination List

Updated: $50 Hawaii Visitor Fee & Reducing Tourists Confirmed By Next Governor

It is a foregone conclusion that the next Hawaii governor will be current Lt. Gov. Josh Green. He previously proffered the idea of a $50 visitor fee on arrival. That’s right, a $50 “green fee” by Green. Now his plan has been confirmed, and it goes like this.

“As governor, I will propose a $50 impact fee for visitors.” (Josh Green)

According to Green’s website, that will “generate up to $350 million in annual revenue to invest in protecting our environment, addressing climate change and building affordable housing, while reducing the total number of tourists.”

Visitors are in an uproar.

We’ve already had a huge number of comments from visitors upset about both the idea and impact of yet one more fee in Hawaii.

The Hawaii universal tourist fee details.

This gets confusing even for us. Earlier this summer, Hawaii’s semi-defunct marketing arm, HVCB, said the universal visitor fee is “dead on arrival,” per the state legislature. Yet the individual about to become governor says the fee is clearly on.

A Hawaii tourist fee has been thrown around for over fifty years.

As long ago as 1970, the state legislature first discussed a tax system to offset visitors’ impact with some fee. HVCB would have been responsible for implementing the fee Green has proposed had their contract not been pulled and likely handed over to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA).

After HVCB announced that the universal Hawaii visitor fee idea was dead, gubernatorial certain Lt. Gov. Josh Green said in an interview that he would like to implement what he then called a “climate impact fee” of $50 per person. It then became formalized at some point on his political website.

That fee would apply to all Hawaii visitors on arrival in the state. Green first said such a fee would raise an additional $500+ million annually but has since downgraded that amount. He said the fee is aligned with estimates of how much money is needed to help reduce environmental issues resulting from tourism.

Where will the $50 tourist fee go exactly?

One of the things that most rankles Hawaii residents and visitors alike, and they can agree on, is the state seems to have a complete lack of accountability for the money it takes in, whether earmarked or not. And that has been the case for as long as we can remember. Heck, we can’t even get park and beach restrooms and roads repaired for a seeming lack of money. And how many of you have asked where the 18% tax you already pay on accommodations is going?

Moreover, we have never heard how the state would allocate such funds or whether they might even end up in the sinkhole general fund. The more we think about this, the more questions it raises.

Will a universal Hawaii visitor fee be deemed legal?

Such a fee might be seen as interfering with the right to inter-state travel. It could discriminate against Hawaii visitors such that it would conflict with laws and the U.S. Constitution. With green fees in other states, they seem to be enforced on both residents and visitors in order to avoid this problem.

Perhaps there is another way to do this, but that path is unclear. Honolulu has been working on some form of “green fee” for several years. Plans were for a $20 per guest fee for each visitor’s accommodation. In that case, the money raised was also to support environmental goals.

That also makes us wonder if there could be both island-based visitor fees and a statewide fee. And then what happens to all of the other new fees?

Other global destinations with green fees.

Countries with green fees include the Pacific island country of Palau, where a $100 visitor fee was implemented. The Galapagos Islands also has a $100 fee which was due to rise and then didn’t. That fee, we understand, is collected by the airlines. But those are foreign countries and not a state.

Should both visitors and residents pay?

Many believe it is better to implement a universal fee for environmental remediation that both visitors and residents pay. It’s worth noting that when residents travel and stay at accommodations in Hawaii, they pay as much as visitors in terms of taxes.

A further complication to a universal fee is that while visitors may only visit Hawaii once yearly, locals may have multiple trips to and from the mainland in a calendar year. This means a universal fee collected at the airport for everyone may have more burden on residents.

At the same time, you’ll recall that a federal court ruling permitted there to be Hanauma Bay visitor-only fees. So a way to collect a green fee could be implemented at places like that and not through the airlines or the airport.

What do you think Hawaii should do?

When we first raised this in Controversial $50 Hawaii Visitor Fee Plan Returns, you were most outspoken in your comments.


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268 thoughts on “Updated: $50 Hawaii Visitor Fee & Reducing Tourists Confirmed By Next Governor”

  1. Good Government presents a balanced plan where other economic activity will balance the budget.

    An uncosted “sound bite” of tax the tourist or tax the rich. Is not good government per se.

    Perhaps they should tax second homers or migrants from the mainland?

    If a fee delivers a benefit then it will not reduce cost benefit equation and may promote more tourism of the required type. The bargain basement trade does little to benefit the islands as they contribute to eco damage too but do less to benefit local businesses and hence tax income. That said is it truly aloha spirit to say we only want you if you have money?

    More thought and less politics are needed with cooler heads and less sound bites.

  2. I think it is a bad decision. But if necessary, I will visit and pay but I only have a set budget for my Hawaii vacation. So it will mean redistributing my dollars. I will spend $50 less on nice restraints or tours or souvenir shopping or local Hawaiin charities.
    We only have a set amount to spend. Just that simple. But I will not deny myself a week of rest and beautiful weather just to make a politician look good. No…I won’t allow him to ruin my annual birthday visit to paradise. I am happy hanging out on a gorgeous beach eating bologna or spam sandwiches. A $10 dollar fee would be less objectionable!

  3. I think how ever you look at it, it is another nail in the coffin called Hawaii. They are hardly hanging on now, it looks like and then you add a “little” more money to it. Covid did a lot of damage to the Islands and I think it will continue to damage it. It is becoming too expensive to vacation there.
    If this is brought on by damage to reefs from boats that hit them – let the boat owners pay for the damage. If it is because people are harassing ocean animals – fine them. There is suppose to be hefty fines for even touching a sea turtle. Extend it to include whales and dolphins. But why is that my problem that there are idiots there!

  4. I think a fee to go to the islands would be the tip of the iceberg. It would ruin the tourism for Hawaii. There are already sky high taxes on the hotels and resorts. The price of a rental car is sky high. Most resorts have a parking fee. Food has gone even higher than it was last year and there are a lot fewer tourists already. I think the islands are suffering from lack of people working and lack of tourists and then you want to put on another money amount for something that is not 99% of the tourists fault??? If it is because boats run in to reefs -make the boater pay for the damages. If people are harassing the sea animals fine or arrest them. There has always been a fine for touching the sea turtles. Enforce the damage!

    1. Do the crime do the time. Don’t spread out to the law abiding citizens. Need Island wide pickup trash and free day at the landfill. Government saves money from volunteer labor and Island is cleaned up.

  5. Can’t believe this policy is constitutional.
    Sure a long ways from trying hard to get people to choose Hawaii as their vacation spot.

    1. Fair is fair. If Hawaii is going to charge American Citizens a fee to visit their state, then ALL 49 other states should charge Hawaiians a fee to visit their states too! Does Hawaii think conservation is only for their state? Do they think they’re not really a state so they can violate the inter-state commerce clause? We can escalate this nonsense any way they want to but I have a guarantee from my Senator in Congress, they’re going to get targeted the same way they target the rest of the states. Perhaps if they wanted to screw their fellow Americans, they should have thought twice about voting to become a state and all the federal commerce and free interstate travel laws that entails? It’s too late for that now. Abide the law.

  6. Had a question to ask about how this will be applied. Currently, the colleges and universities in Hawaii compete in various sports. As such, the visiting team flies over for the competitions. Will each team be charged the fee for each member? That added cost might keep teams from coming over, especially the larger squads. Would this fee also apply to folks whose job requires them to travel to Hawaii for meetings or other work. Not asking about conventions but day to day work.

    1. That is a solid and fair question Hal. A football team travels with at least 50 people. But in all reality, a couple thousand dollars to a D1 school is not a big deal.

      1. The team is 50 players but you add in coaches, trainers, band, and fans. While the elite D1 schools may find this chump change the smaller FCS schools do count pennies.

        1. My youngest was on the Arizona Teams from ’96 thru ’98, I know they brought everyone, 80-90 Players, 25 Coaches and Trainers, that’s pretty much a full Charter. I think this is still a Tax that violates Inter-State Commerce.

        2. Again, agree, the PAC-12, no problem, but Hawaii is in the Mountain West, I think, and even Schools like UTEP, NMSU, UNM may have pause to bring all.

          1. They are in the Big West for other sports and I think budgets are even more important there. Might be that the conference would reduce the number of trips there to every other time.

    2. Great point, I’m sure the Bureacracy of Hawaii hasn’t thought that one out. On the Business side, as one who covered Hawaii from 1986-2014, as many as 5X/Yr., I’m sure Employers would become weary, as belt tightening measures constrict Sales, with the Zoom mentality, not the solution.

  7. One of the early stories on this subject said that one of the purposes was to eliminate or reduce the “low end” visitor to Hawaii. Is this fair? In other word, you can’t visit Hawaii unless you are rich??

    1. Or you can look at it the other way around. Does anyone have a “right” to go on vacation to Hawaii? Should others support the cost of your vacation? For example, I want to drive a Ferrari, but can’t afford one, so should Ferrari be forced to reduce it’s prices? Or should the people of Italy subsidize Ferrari to the point where I can now afford one?

      1. We are not subsidizing your trip to Hawai’i, rather Uncle Josh wants to tax you for coming here and crossing an imagi ary line. Your comparison is of two different concepts that are not equivalent. And interstate travel is protected whereas purchasing a car, subsidized or not, is not.

        1. I think you misunderstood my point, sorry I wasn’t clear. I wasn’t referring to just the tax, but I was responding to the comment that Hawaii is trying to reduce the “low end” traveller. The implication in that post is that Hawaii should cater to those kinds of travelers by making a trip there “affordable”. In effect, subsidizing that trip for those with limited money to spend.

  8. The Interstate Commerce Act and subsequent US SUpreme Court decisions expressly prohibits any state attempting to unreasonably interfere with any US citizen the freedom to travel between any of the united states. See the 1999 US Supreme Court decision known as Saedz vs Roe which reaffirmed the prohibition of any state interfering with interstate travel adding that a stare may do so only if public health is endangered.

    1. Yes but how do you define “unreasonably” or “interfere”? Ones person’s reasonable may not be for someone else.

      1. The Supreme court in explaining its decision said the only exception to its travel non-interference order would be travel that would endanger public health. Otherwise the Court said no state may impede or otherwise restrict interstate travel. I suggest that anyone interested – particularly Hawaiian government leadership read the Supreme Court’s decision and implied directives in this case.

        1. Pandering politicians propose passing unconstitutional laws all the time. Legislatures pass unconstitutional laws. That’s how we get SCOTUS decisions that strike down those laws. Green surely knows his proposal is unconstitutional. He does not care. He is appealing to emotion. “If elected, I will blah blah blah.”

          The beauty of this way of governing is that, until a court says otherwise, Green can still enforce his unconstitutional law. Then he can blame the court for taking it away. Public outrage at the court, and not at the legislature who passed it.

          1. If and when any government would overtly enact any provision interfering with state-to-state travel, any person on entity with “standing” may file suit (usually in federal district court) to enjoin or negate the provision. That is normal procedure for challenging a blatant violation of a Supreme Court decision.

        2. So does that mean that any tax in a visitor would also be struck down? For example the tax on hotel rooms? In other words, it seems to me that suggesting that ANY fee or tax that’s only on visitors (parking fees?) is a “restraint” by your reading of the Supreme Court ruling. I’ve said this before, and I know that some people will hate me for it. But, it’s the eighth of entitlement to expect a “cheap” Hawaii vacation. I want to drive a Ferrari, but can’t afford to. I’m not advocating for the government to force Ferrari to reduce the price of their car so that anyone can afford one.

          1. I think the difference is that for hotels you don’t need to be a “visitor” to pay those fees and taxes. Everyone gets stuck paying those. Now if the do institute the $50 “visitor” fee to Hawaii and don’t charge everyone, then there probably will be an issue. Plenty of fees on the mainland for parking and hotels, etc that apply to everyone.
            One parking fee I know about that locals don’t get charged is in Laguna Beach. Residents can get a sticker that allows for free parking. But that’s just the city.

          2. But you’re making an assumption that a “fee” or tax would be an “unreasonable” interference. The question is, would the court look at it that way? A $50 addition to a $4k vacation seems to me like a not much in the way of interference, not does it seem unreasonable.

          3. Hawaii has all manner of taxes, including hotel taxes (transient accommodations tax). So do most all states/counties/cites. And they can (and do) tax rental cars. But everyone has to pay, not just the people from out of state.

          4. No- The only issue in this SC decision was the attenpt by any state to prohibit interstate travel except in cases where public health is in jeopardy. Rather than debate the issue anyone interested shpuld first read the actual SC decision. See the case caption in my earlier comment.

        3. Define “impede” Is a $50 fee impeding? Can you apply that to airfare in general? Especially when it gets really high?

          1. Impede is somewhat subjective. But, the airline fee would be perfectly legal so long as everyone has to pay it, not just non-residents. We already pay taxes/fees on airline tickets. This is just a question of how much to pay.

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