Hawaii Visitor "Green" Fees | How and When?

Hawaii Visitor $50 “Green” Fees: How, When, Where?

This week the Hawaii Legislature reconvened in a large and festive event, pictured here, and not seen since pre-Covid. Among the issues mentioned in various speeches yesterday were tax breaks, help for the mentally ill, and above all, more affordable rental housing, which is a thorn in Hawaii’s side. Lack of housing also dramatically impacts the Hawaii travel industry since workers increasingly find it impossible to live here. But also mentioned was something directly related to visitors’ pocketbooks. Here’s the how, when, and where of the proposed visitor green fees.

As governor, I will propose a $50 impact fee for visitors. — Governor Josh Green.

Legislators spoke of working together despite apparent tensions between Governor Green and them. That includes arguably the two most important legislators, Senate President Ron Kouchi and House Speaker Scott Saiki. We’ll skip what everyone had to say and cut to the chase about how this year’s legislature plans to address Hawaii travel issues.

Green said that his proposals and those he’s heard from legislators are, as he said, “super similar.” Let’s see if that is true or wishful thinking.

We expect to learn full details of the proposed environmental fee as soon as Monday when the governor’s State of the State address is scheduled to take place.

Green’s environmental impact fee for visitors is on.

Green isn’t backing off his plans for a visitor fee for environmental impact. In his campaign, the $50 fee was one hallmark proposal that he estimated could raise up to $600M per year. His stated goal has been to reduce the quantity of Hawaii’s “low-end” visitors and “the total number of tourists.”

He last spoke about the subject following his election in December when he reaffirmed his plan to introduce such a visitor impact fee on all Hawaii tourists.

Senate President Ron Kouchi spoke the obvious when he admitted that there are “potential legal issues about being able to do that.” He pointed out that where those fees exist is in countries rather than in states within countries. This is an excellent point. No states in the USA currently require visitors to pay an entry fee.

At odds with the plan, Hawaii’s semi-defunct marketing arm, HVCB, said last year that the “Green” fee was “dead on arrival.”

Hawaii has unsuccessfully tried to implement some such visitor fees for more than a half-century. This time, however, seems different; we suspect some version will become law later this year.

Do you take your “green” with the flight or hotel stay?

The proposed $50 per visitor fee to mitigate tourism’s environmental impact is popular with Green and some Hawaii residents. As BOH visitors have pointed out innumerable times, it would almost certainly run afoul of the 14th Amendment, which calls for freedom of movement between states. Thus it will need to be construed differently.

When Hawaii moves forward with Green’s “green” fee, there have been mentions of it either being added to hotel and vacation rental bills or collected by the airlines with ticket purchases. Let’s ponder that for a moment. What happens if someone plans to stay in multiple hotels on different islands? That has never been discussed.

Plus, you now have created additional work between hotels and airlines with the state of Hawaii to report and transfer fees collected. Hawaii also has repeat visitors who come more than once a year. So is this fee yearly or each time?

When Green spoke after his election about his plan to introduce the “green” fee, he said that how that would be charged, whether on arrival, via the airlines, or as a surcharge on accommodations, was still to be determined. He is, however, undeterred about pushing through some form of an added environmental impact fee on Hawaii visitors.

And the money goes where exactly?

Perhaps the biggest sticking point about the “green” fee for everyone is the state’s inability to be accountable for the money it receives, including almost 18% in visitor accommodation taxes. We believe visitors deserve transparency and being told how the money is being used.

Perhaps the allocation of such funds will be a highlight of an environmental impact fee proposal. We certainly hope so. Stay tuned for more possible answers next week.

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199 thoughts on “Hawaii Visitor $50 “Green” Fees: How, When, Where?”

  1. This today from The Points Guy. Still no one is saying where the money is actually going or how they can collect it.


  2. Does Honolulu or any of our Islands have a discount card like LA, NYC, Las Vegas, etc. (the Go City Pass)? For about $59, the card gives discounts to major attractions. The state and HVCB could advertise and sell them through GoHawaii.com, etc. and work with businesses to provide discounts (10% off a meal, hotel or tour adventure, etc.). The card would pay for itself, participating businesses could/would benefit, and the state could generate millions in “voluntary” tourist revenue.

    The state could even rebate part of the discount back to businesses like manufactures rebate coupon discounts to stores.

    The cards themselves could become artistic “collectibles” like National Park Passes.

    “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

    1. Mark great suggestion for states that want to be friendly and want more tourists. This is a state that wants less of us and only “high end” visitors. This law is meant to start to get rid of the “low end” tourist not to bring in the coupon clippers. The $50 surcharge is nothing compared to the extremely high prices you will pay for everything. It means nothing when you pay these prices and still get extremely poor service and many businesses closed because it seems like very few people want to work and many businesses are closed or just open sporadically. We were just on Kauai and very disappointing

      1. Kim, until Hawaii and every other State declares that people that are able to work yet remain unemployed will receive Zero assistance of any kind will this problem end. There’s no reason to keep paying people to not work.

  3. It’s not fair that I’ll have to pay for my grandchildren to come and visit me. Being older and on a fixed income. My grandchildren are teenagers and want to come to see us not Hawaii. Why should we have to pay extra for that.

    1. Nancy I’m Certain that you are not the only Grangparent feeling the pain and anxiety from the Green Fee. If it’s the blame game and who to aim your concerns to begin with Governor Green, after that you can take your angst out on the Voters.

    2. You actually don’t have to pay. You only pay because you want to. Their parents should be the ones to cover that. I did it for my kids to go see their grandparents and my kids are doing the same for my grand kids.
      It’s a cruel world but it is what it is.

  4. In 2025, my wife and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. Because we saved money for all these years, we want to pay for a family trip as part of this, a total of 13 people varying in age from 10 to 73 (us 2) years old. Hawaii had been our preferred destination. But we will not pay $750 extra to visit Hawaii. Plenty of other wonderful summer destinations in the US that won’t charge us extra simply to set foot there.

  5. Gov. Green took office and has made a lot of promises. According to Honolulu KHNL, “Green touched on economic redevelopment and tourism mitigation, adding that a climate change fund will be at least partly fed by visitor impact fees… Green has pledged to bring together private developers and philanthropists to build “thousands of new homes for Hawaii families” — in part, he said, by converting illegal vacation rentals into affordable housing.” Is he taking property by eminent domain? Exciting times in Hawaii.

    1. Politicians always make a lot of promises… please check back in 4 years and see how many of the “thousands of new homes for Hawaiian families” actually get built – my guess is most of his budget will need to be used for legal fees given the number of lawsuits which will most likely be filed if he tries to implement some of these ideas. Perhaps he should spend his time/money on improving the overall quality of life for everyone involved by fixing the infrastructure, i.e., roads, HNL, water supply, more teachers/doctors/medical care, etc., and above all, let’s be sure to mitigate the ‘coupon clippers’ and low end visitors.

    2. Eminent Domain, an interesting suggestion. Fair Market Value is far from cheap in Hawaii. I am picturing the Lawsuits over the State’s Appraisers, their “honest” appraisals from Fairydust Land. Lands being held up for a year or more because of price, then the demolition. It could be several years before anything is built, will the money really be available? Proving a property is Illegally renting isn’t easy, time consuming with additional costs and testimony plus Lawyers on both sides. Drug properties are still standing over a decade later. Aside from Constitutional Issues and Legal Wrangling the costs are Prohibitive to say the least, who’s Green kidding besides himself? Hopefully he was a better Doctor!

  6. Just got done with our 6th visit to Kauai since 2009. We will not be back anytime soon $50 green fee or not. Was not an enjoyable time. Besides extraordinary high prices the service was horrible, seemed like no one was working. It was a chore to find places to eat. I think Gov Green will get his wish and eliminate the “low end” visitors like myself. We have traveled the world the past 10 years and have stayed in much more interesting places that welcomed us instead of chasing us away.

    1. It only seems fair to have mainland states to charge a fee for Hawaiians entering the mainland, plus export duties for goods destined for Hawaii.

    2. I totally agree with you, it’s an Awesome World with many Exotic Tropical Locations that are very welcoming, actually happy to see us. The Costs are nowhere near Hawaii and the experiences are gasp worthy. Hawaii can have their Rich and Wealthy, they’ll be bored and moving on eventually. So many other places exist that they prefer to be seen. It’s their greed, their loss.

        1. Eldo, Absolutely! How could I not be, I would have to miss your Commentary. How would I fill my free moments? I Love visiting Hawaii and have a fairly unique opportunity every year to visit,catch up with the friends and acquaintances that I’ve made, maybe even meet some new people. I just disagree with how some things are done and wonder how nothing seems to be done to help the Rental Crisis. The Money goes somewhere, but where? Matching Federal Funds are available, why aren’t the House and Senate members helping? So many questions. Take care Eldo!

  7. Are you going to tax babies and small children? If so that may deter many. You accommodation rax is quite high already. $50 is steep abd may have a negative rather than positive impact

    1. Karen, as They see it, if people don’t like the Fee then they are not the people that They want visiting. It’s just the simple truth.


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