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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

  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

    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”.

  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

  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.

    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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

    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.

      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.

        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.

          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.

      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.

        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.

        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 .

  8. There’s 2 types of tourists, those that get offended by this and those that understand it. Would you feel better if it were renamed as another accommodation tax? Management is only becoming a thing because it has gone unmanaged and uncontrolled for decades. Tourists and some companies benefited, while locals paid the price.

    1. I disagree, there are those two that see how much the taxes have gone up and nothing has been done and those that do not. I’ve going to Maui since 2008 and in that time nothing has changed despite all the taxes are collected from me every time I go there, the roads don’t get paid, the parking lots are not refinished, there’s no affordable housing, housing, the problem is it’s I like the same corrupt legislators every time and it goes to somebody’s pockets.

    2. Understood. I’m all for finding the right balance between tourists and the infrastructure and environment to support them, as well as support the way of life of residents. After all, if Hawaii gets too overrun, it will lose some of its beauty, which is what the visitors and residents alike want to experience and preserve.

      Finding the right balance, though, is going to be painful, I think. For visitors, but especially for locals. Sometimes, things seem to need to oscillate too far in both directions before middle ground is found and balance can be achieved.

      Right now we are oscillating so far in the direction of extra fees, taxes, rules, attitudes, hotel and meal prices, etc. that it is starting to hurt the local economy.

      1. Is it hurting the local economy? Where? How? The industry & this site want to blame softness in projected bookings on the few new fees imposed even though any thoughtful person knows the awareness of these fees is very low. So, the impact is thus limited also. More likely, the softness reflects more tangible, quantifiable drivers like 1) economic influences say inflation, lost jobs, uncertainty, 2) the industry seeing recent growth as an opportunity to rape visitors again with high hotel costs, resort fees, rental car fees, costs to eat out, 3) increased cost of flights, 4) continued concerns in Japan over Covid, 5) concerns throughout Asia and Europe over potential war, 6) increased COL in US. All impact the industry.

        1. Who are you arguing with? I believe I mentioned many of the reasons you listed.

          I don’t think #1 and #5 are issues currently. Tourist counts are actually up throughout the world as a whole compared to 2019, the last “normal” year. And many of them seem to be going to Europe this year.

          Pretty sure that the high car and hotel rates, along with all the new taxes and fees being imposed both by the resorts and by the government, plus the hostile attitude of late towards visitors, are the main drivers keeping visitors away currently. And as I’ve said in previous posts, the government actions in particular have been designed intentionally to stop visitors from coming. They have stated directly and in public that this is the intention.

          1. This isn’t just an issue in Hawaii but a problem world wide. Hawaii has never been a cheap destination. If people want cheap they go to Mexico, Costa Rica or take a cruise. This displacement is happening worldwide. Portugal, Mallorca, Minorca & Ibiza are some examples of places where outsiders come buy up cheap real estate & come for the lower cost of living. By doing that they have pushed out the native population and driven up costs so that the people who grew up there no longer can afford to live there. It’s time to repair what’s been done to these communities, they deserve respect, to reclaim ownership and feel at peace as much as all those tourists feel in their home communities.

          2. Not going to happen, though. No $$ in it. Humans are incentivized beings, unfortunately.

            I agree that balance is the ultimate goal. But there has to be something in it for the powers that be in order for them to promote and execute the change.

            Not an impossible proposition. Subsidizing developers to build more affordable housing would be a good start. I wouldn’t mind my tax money going towards supporting that.

  9. Sounds intimidating. The fees might be a great idea, but seriously, start with $25, so it doesn’t look like just a money grab and be responsible in use if the money.

  10. A fee for a US citizen to visit another state ? LOL. I’m sure that would be unconstitutional! What’s wrong with progress and gentrification? Native Hawaiian have no more rights than any other citizen of the USA.

    1. “Progress” and gentrification (for who?)= displacement of Hawaiians, destruction of aina, kai and aloha.

      The forced takeover of a sovereign nation (Hawaii) by wealthy foreign businessmen continues though with less direct force.

      Native Hawaiians do not have federal recognition like Native Americans do, so yes, less rights.

      Read up on the history of Hawaii, especially as told from native Hawaiian scholars. There is much more than haole fantasies of the natives.

      1. You are very presumptuous to assume that Paul and everyone else isn’t aware of the history of Hawaii. Hawaii “was stolen”. All places are “stolen” when they are settled. The mainland was “stolen” from the Indians, Australia was “stolen” from the Aborigines, etc. Those facts are neither here nor there. No one who committed the heinous crime of settling in these areas is still alive.

        The best thing to do if you are upset about your circumstances is to stop blaming others for something they had Nothing to do with, move forward, and carve out a better life for yourself, either in Hawaii or somewhere else.

        1. Uh, wake up man. It was not “settled”. It was stolen at gunpoint despite the long existence of a treaty between the US and the Kingdom of Hawaii. It was just like the way we (the US) and the Native Americans..we want it we take it….the fact that noone who executed this is alive is hardly relevant. Hitler is dead too. So is the Japanese Emperor, Stalin, Lenin and Mao. So, we should ignore all the stuff they did too…my ancestors who were killed at Auschwitz be damned….

        2. “Those facts” have legacies that live in the here and now, in the people and aina. Educate yourself on privilege, as it is handed down from generations that initially stole the land, decimated Hawaiians, and tried to extinguish the culture. Attitudes perpetuate the systems that uphold this modern day colonialism which will kill us all. I hate the system; I try to not hate people.

  11. We are
    Timeshare owners and spend two to three weeks a year in the islands. As owners we feel a tourism fee is extortion. We consider Hawaii a second home until we came make the move permanently

  12. I have visited the islands a few times. Happy to contribute to preservation and infrastructure of the islands. But the state park fee system of paying for a car plus visitors daily at each site versus a day pass or week pass like the national parks feels like gouging.

  13. Of course it’s visitor control. Visitors pet monk seals, desecrate sacred places, and buy their second or third home here so they can visit a week outta the year. The result is the displacement of our people and families, erosion and loss of culture and environment.

    Sad that the conclusion of this piece is fear. Fearing the loss of money. God, people here have been losing everything for centuries.

    What does it say about you feeling offended by a dialogue of management while most of the Hawaiians in existence are experiencing displacement and oppression?

    1. How are you getting displaced? By not being able to afford where you live? Welcome to every desirable place in the nation. The answer is not the control of others. It’s about you taking control of your own life and doing something about it. Get more education, a better job, move away from the area for awhile if you have to. That’s what everyone does.

      People seem to think that they are entitled to live in a place, just because they started out there. People everywhere have this exact problem – lack of affordability – but there are things you can do instead of throwing up your hands in despair, and trying to malign and prevent others from enjoying what you enjoy. No aloha there.

      Look to yourself, before you chastise others.

      1. Agreed! My kids are 4th Generation San Diegan’s and they cannot afford to buy a home in San Diego. Same Same.

        1. I can name 1000 other areas where it’s also happening. Exact same issue. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the way the world turns.

          I am not wealthy, and I wish I and everyone else could enjoy the best in life, remain in their childhood neighborhoods, etc. – but it’s just not the way it works. However, I’ve never considered remaining inactive and hating on rich people. Instead I strive to do whatever I can on my own to help myself and my family get the best out of life.

          1. I can too but that doesn’t mean you throw up your hands and say, “Oh well”. There is a lot that can be done. Where I live[a very touristy town with our own issues ] just sold an old large property the state owned to a developer. They must build affordable housing & housing for disabled people on that land as well as set aside 700 acres as open space. Big $$$ was salivating to get their teeth into it. We as residents fought back and we got a better outcome. Also income inequality has been as bad as it was in the “Gilded Age.” It’s time to make some changes.

          2. And just to be clear, the bid swath of land that will be turned into affordable housing is in Addition to the homeless transitional housing project. These are 2 separate solutions in our community.

          3. No we fought for that land to be used for people who have for decades been pushed & priced out of our community. We didn’t want a high dollar developer to buy it and put million dollar houses on it. We are also building transitional housing for our homeless citizens.It’s whole person approach where people have tiny homes, there are social services on site, they will get mental health help for those who need it, job training & placement. Once they have a firm foundation they will be transitioned to permanent housing and once they move the next person who needs help will move in and the process starts again. It better to tackle problems and help people than to spin one’s wheels and do nothing.

      2. Displacement of natives continues. Hawaiians have been forced to flea our homeland for many decades due to invading wealthy and corporations gobbling up aina, the few good jobs mostly going to haoles, pricing us out.

        Families, communities, culture destroyed often resulting in poverty, addiction, poor health. Those who leave mostly go to Vegas and the like and get decent paying union jobs while prices in Hawaii skyrocket, preventing return.

        Your suggestions are simplistic, do not acknowledge history or the systems that perpetuate the problem, but rather blame Hawaiians for not being haole enough.

        1. You are no different than all the other humans in the country who have been displaced by gentrification. You are the one who needs to educate yourself about this. The problem with small island populations is that they have no conception of the problems being faced throughout the country and the world.

          Also, don’t pull the race card – that has nothing to do with this, and you may be displaying your own racism by introducing haoles into this discussion.

          Rich get richer, and the poor, if they allow themselves to be victims, will get poorer. Your choice. Quit blaming others for your inaction.

      3. As a kanaka maoli:
        we don’t want we here,
        we don’t need your here,
        please don’t come,
        please don’t buy land here,
        please tell the military to leave
        and give us our land back.

        Educate yourselves to remove the shroud of ignorance from your minds. Hawai‘i is not and never will be America.
        We are not Americans.
        By visiting Hawai‘i you are culpable in furthering a the illegal occupation and abuse of Hawai‘i and her people.

        1. That mindset will result in Hawaii being turned into what a lot of small Pacific island nations are. A third-world, high-poverty stricken island with limited resources and opportunities. At least that mindset takes up a small minority of people.

  14. To paraphrase something attributed to Churchill, “Hawaii can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.” In the many years I’ve lived here I regularly think, “surely, after _____, I can’t be surprised again by governmental ineptitude and corruption”. I’m always, repeatedly, eventually wrong. Is getting rid of the HTA a bad idea? I don’t know, but I would bet my own money it will be poorly executed, cost more than it should, and have negative results. Law making here seems to follow the I-think-I-have-a-good-idea-but-no-idea-how-to-evaluate-or-implement-it-but-we-will-forge-ahead-anyway process.

  15. We were paying $5 per person each time we visited a state park 8n January. Visiting 3 parks in one day costs $30 per couple. Would the $50charge replace this

  16. It is ridiculous that a state can charge or restrict people from another state to visit or even worse charge then to visit, I live in California, we are invaded by people and cartels crossing our borders and the federal government does nothing, these intruders use and destroy many of our natural resources, if these arrogant Hawaiian politicians pass any laws that charge or restrict fellow Americans the law should be unconstitutional, if they do all registered citizens of Hawaiian should be charged to visit the 9th Island Las Vegas or California, or any state. Quinlan sounds like a jerk.

  17. My husband & I have been to Hawaii many times.Last time this Feb. It’s unfortunate that tourism has developed the way it has since arriving in the 1860’s. Today I feel for the people of Hawaii.They have a non stop onslaught of tourists. We went to a public beach on the North Shore,you couldn’t find parking in the low season. I can’t image being a local constantly having to navigate the non stop stream of visitors. The only people benefiting are the hotel owners/Big businesses spread out all over the island.My hope is they change the way tourists experience Hawaii.More respectful of the people,their land & culture.After over 150 years of it being to the benefit of big money investors maybe it’s time it benefits the people.


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