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Hawaii Tries Controlling Visitors Who Simply Want Vacations

The never-say-die Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), itself on the verge of possible elimination, has just launched a new website, “Holomua.” It is intended to share with visitors the progress and updates on each of the islands’ community-based Destination Management Action Plans (DMAPs), which are of unclear value to visitors. DMAPs are an effort to balance tourism benefits and impact in relation to natural resources and over-visited areas.

It is entirely without wonder why those of us in Hawaii travel have said that we survived and thrived for decades despite the state’s politics. Now that is more true than ever before. Not only that, but this comes at the very same time that the state legislature is looking at either overhauling or eliminating the same Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Outspoken state representative Sean Quinlan said that while HTA has done a good job at selling Hawaii, what’s needed is a shift to better management of the state’s resources for both residents and visitors. Quinlan is the author of a bill intended to make that change of focus law. “What this will be doing is updating statutes and its mission positions to reflect a much larger investment: destination management, which is an investment in our local communities.”

What is Holomua about, and who is it for?

The website, whose name means progress, is a conglomeration of stories, reports, and updates about each of the island’s management plans, plus more about regenerative tourism, natural resources, culture, visitor education, and other programs.

HTA’s DMAP planning director (Caroline Anderson) said, “Our new website serves as a valuable resource for the public to learn more about the initiatives and activities we have undertaken as well as those in close partnership with our fellow state agencies, the counties, Island Visitors Bureaus, community organizations, and partners to better manage tourism.”

Gone-wrong Hawaii green fee enters.

One suggestion is that the money to help fund the preservation of Hawaii’s natural resources emanates from a $50 green fee, which continues to be thrown around, albeit anemically. Once intended by Gov. Josh Green to be a blanket fee charged to all visitors on entry to the state, it has morphed into a fee to be charged only to Hawaii visitors who use any state resources, such as state beaches, parks, and trails. And even then, the implementation of the fees is now looking to be sometime around 2028.

Quinlan said, “If we can implement some kind of a green fee system, and we could get DLNR an estimated $100 million a year, there’s a lot that we could do with that money in terms of taking care of natural resources.”

Will Hawaii Tourism Authority morph or be eliminated entirely?

Hawaii lawmakers are looking at entirely eliminating the Hawaii Tourism Authority. If that were to come to pass, the prior role would be assumed by the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism. Quinlan’s plan is for the focus there to be on destination management exclusively rather than destination marketing.

It comes just as an interesting juxtaposition to what we’ve just indicated: an upcoming summer in Hawaii that is already not shaping up in the way that Hawaii travel businesses, like hotels, for example, had hoped.

In February, HTA suggested among other things that it “Does Not Encourage Visiting:” Waikiki, Diamond Head, Volcanoes, Poipu, Etc.”

Furthermore, the state’s confidence in HTA has been completely eroded over many years, curtailing their funding. They continue to try new things, like this website. But failed efforts, including multiple rounds of questionable bidding processes towards management and marketing partners, have continued to make the agency look foolish or worse.  That failure in itself has caused more feelings that now is the time to end HTA permanently. One bill states clearly, “The legislature finds that it is necessary and appropriate to dissolve the Hawaii tourism authority.”

Why does destination management sound like visitor control?

Maybe it’s just us, but the name seems derogatory somehow from the outset. Instead of promoting natural resource conservation and the like, even the name rings like visitor management. Just another way in which Hawaii has been and remains tone-deaf to its only real source of income. Quinlan proves that point, saying, “I want anyone who works in this agency to start and finish with destination management.” One bill calls for a “Hawaii tourism czar.”

Are you in favor of DMAP influencing your Hawaii vacation?

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176 thoughts on “Hawaii Tries Controlling Visitors Who Simply Want Vacations”

  1. NO!!! Hawaii is losing its intrigue due to the infighting of local HI government, HTA and the idea of Telling visitors how to “vacation”.
    Please leave the HVCB and local Island Chapters alone. Let them continue Promote & help Sell this incredible destination.
    If Hawaii as a destination overall continues to price itself out of the market (state entry fees, beach fees, hotel prices & fees are crazy), folks have other options of where to spend their vacation time and Money! ~Mahalo

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  2. I read the article 2x to be sure and it says All visitors. So I can assume that means the charge would be imposed on visitors from other countries as well. The comments are confusing they seem to be directed mostly at mainland visitors or maybe it’s just mainland visitors complaining the most? I lived in Waikiki and worked for a local family owned very busy restaurant there for several years during and after 9/11. Tourism then seemed to aim at other countries because mainland visitors were a small % of the millions visiting. As another reader stated other countries have similar fees. Unfortunately the mentality is if your a US citizen you shouldn’t have to pay the fee. get over it or don’t visit. 50$ shouldn’t make or break your vacation

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    1. It won’t work. The interstate commerce clause of the Constitution states the Free flow of commerce between states. That includes tourism. I suggest charging all nations but the US $500. You know to cover it.

    1. John W, agreed. However, the State allowed the hotels and timeshares and condos, etc to build all the rooms. They have spent the money and paid the taxes … now what, not receive their return on investment? The State is to blame for all … “if you build it they will come”.

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  3. Galapagos Islands charge each visitor U$200 (Two Hundred) to visit their islands. They don’t have any problems filling the limited tourism space. The funds are used to protect and preserve the islands

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  4. I would like to know where all the taxes imposed on hotel and rental properties goes. There should be details in the state and county budgets showing how that income is allocated. It’s the highest of any state in the USA and now they want to impose more taxes and fees for visitors.

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    1. All of that financial information is public information, so if you are truly interested the information is there for the reading. Hawaii is unique compared to the mainland as they have to import virtually everything. This discussion would be far more productive if those commenting would do some research on these issues. Commenting and assuming the situation is similar to tourist destinations on the mainland is misguided. They are not remotely similar.

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  5. If they implement visitor fees, we will stop coming to Hawaii. We have come for 34 years and stay for a month. We will travel to other tropical destinations where they don’t charge visitor fees or tell me where I can go and when.

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  6. I live in Hawaii. The government taxes us far more than anywhere else, and they already impose fees and outrageous prices on visitors & residents alike. But they never spend the tax money on improving anything. Our roads are lucky to have pavement and those that do are riddled with potholes, uneven, and narrow. The buildings are all rusted, crumbling, and moldy. They pump the city’s sewage into the ocean. The trees in the parks are all infested with pests that are killing them. And there’s so much more but not enough characters to name it all.

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  7. I really have no other comment than to say that visiting Hawai’i is expensive enough without an additional fee for just being from the mainland. It would certainly curbs the desire to visit for a number of would-be visitors with Hawai’i on their bucket list.

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    1. Aloha,This doesn’t sound very Aloha to me.
      What we really need is to not allow visitors to buy up our land.Our state needs to think of the natives & stop taxing us.The state already makes millions of dollars every month off tourism.I really don’t appericate the new paid parking downtown Kona.This place used to feel like home.I know longer recognize it with all these added fees.Seriously us locals have to pay to park too.$14hr for parking is expensive.Our water isn’t safe to drink either.There’s homeless camps that smell like urine everywhere&the state does not clean them up.So what exactly does the money from tourism go too? At this point locals are treated & taxed just like the tourists are. Both needs to stop. Not very Aloha.

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      1. Ivanna – I agree! Let’s do the same for California and the west coast altogether. California also suffers greatly from too many tourists, people moving into the state, high housing costs, homelessness, lack of water, expensive parking, fees and taxes for just about everything. Only those who are born in California should be allowed to buy homes and land, and we shouldn’t have to pay taxes either! If it works for Hawaii, it will work for California. Trouble is, our representatives are living off of our backs and will never agree to it.

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        1. Well since its the hoards of tourists that go to Hawaii……….and if the 7.8 million stayed home……..there wouldn’t be a problem. So I don’t quite understand who you think isn’t the problem?

          1. I was responding to the “illegal occupation” comment.

            As far as “hoards of tourists”, I do think there needs to be a reasonable resident-to-visitor ratio, to balance the quality of life for both residents and visitors. Here on Maui, the Maui Island plan recommends a ratio of 3-to-1 on any given day. I think currently it is more like 2-to-1.

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          2. You must not know the History of the Hawaiian Islands. It started with the Europeans [Capt Cook] then the Spanish and then the American Missionaries. It was the beginning of the end for Hawaiians autonomy & the dissolving of their culture. Then came the US military, hoteliers & tourists. It’s only been since the 1960’s that Hawaiians have pushed back to reclaim their culture & land, it’s been an uphill battle since. I’m amazed people are balking at a $50 fee when they spend that for 1 night of cocktails. Hawaiians are pushing against huge monied interests & tourists who seem to think their interests are more important than that of the Indigenous people & residents.

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      1. KALa – I’m interested in knowing where you think Hawaii would be today if the U.S. had not protected the islands from Japan? Would you be happier if you were under their rule? I just don’t understand why you resent the U.S. so greatly. Is it because you want to be self-ruling? How do you propose to protect yourself from those who would occupy your beautiful islands? Also, no one in the present day has said that you shouldn’t maintain your native culture; so instead of griping about being part of the U.S.A., why not choose to be happy and focus on restoring your culture and sharing it? You can’t change the past, but you can make the future bright. I wish you much aloha and success.

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        1. I dont think the reference was to Japan. It was to the illegal overthrow of Hawaii’s government by the combined forces of the US and sugar planters who deposed the rightful queen of the Kingdom Of Hawaii, with whom the US had a treaty,and illegally annexed the islands. Something the US Government has literally apologized for thru the US Congress but to what end? We are now called a state…but in many respects we are not treated as one, very similar to the treatment of the District of Columbia. We are vassals of the US Authority. Have we benefited…depends on your perspective. Maybe we would have benefited more from retaining our independence. Noone knows but most educated have an opinion.

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        2. Your comment is very colonial centric. The US used Hawaii as a strategic buffer to protect the mainland, their first thought wasn’t to protect the Hawaiians. The Hawaiian islands have only so much space before you hit ocean. There are 1, 447,154 residents of Hawaii.They get 7.8 M tourists annually. And lastly Hawaiians were kept from practicing & honoring their culture until 1970. So maybe we all ought to be more sensitive to their needs rather than our own .

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