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How Official Plan To Reduce Visitors Will Impact You + Our Take

Big changes are afoot in Honolulu. The state’s Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) yesterday published a previously approved plan to help attenuate issues associated with burgeoning tourism in Honolulu that would look like this:

“Decreasing the total number of visitors to Oahu to a manageable level by controlling the number of visitor accommodations and exploring changes to land use, zoning and airport policies.”

We mentioned this had been approved in July, and now it’s official. This was a collaborative effort between HTA, the City of Honolulu, and community members. The new Oahu Destination Management Action Plan (press release) is a 36-month effort to help better manage tourism, reduce traffic and protect Oahu’s natural resources.

Two takeaways from BOH.

1. We are not sure that the state and its HTA marketing arm is capable of implementing this plan successfully. The agency remains plagued by years of problems, inefficiencies and ineptitude. Read Hawaii Tourism CEO’s Sudden Departure. We hope to be pleasantly surprised.

2. Hawaii’s visitors aren’t pariahs. In the communication, somehow, we missed anything about how much Hawaii values its visitors. While over-tourism is a Hawaii issue as well as a global problem we all share responsibility for, Hawaii in fact welcomed and invited tourism to grow to where it is today. Case in point, the State of Hawaii courted Southwest Airlines for perhaps a decade to get them to come here. So it is our view that the visitors should always be valued and respected and that should be made clear in communication. 

Here’s what’s planned:

1. Reduce the number of visitor arrivals. How that will happen isn’t at all clear. It is clear that airlines don’t plan on reducing flights, and although reducing accommodations is specifically mentioned by HTA, accommodation providers don’t plan on reducing availability.

2. Charge a new regenerative tourism fee. Visitor fees are all the rage at the moment. We’ll have to see how this plays out.

3. Control short-term rentals to only resort areas. This has been in the works for several years.

4. Manage car rental usage. Honolulu is the one island where it is not only possible, but typically beneficial to not have a car rental.

5. Improve enforcement at Oahu attractions.

6. Implement site reservation requirements at various places. Together with visitor fees, this has become common-place and not unlike places on the mainland.

7. Educate visitors about the culture of Hawaii. That’s a great idea, but again it isn’t clear how that will happen successfully.

8. Promote Hawaii-made products. Great idea. Focus may be better placed on creating more Hawaii products.

Honolulu’s Mayor Rick Blangiardi said “Oahu is a special place and stands out from anywhere else in the world thanks to its natural beauty and its remarkable people. By working together as a community to care for our resources, we create an environment where our culture, our land and water, our economy, and our relationships can thrive.”

Hawaii Tourism Authority’s new president John De Fries said, “It’s about continued collaboration and moving forward together to ‘malama’ this cherished place and each other, as desired by the people of Oahu.”

You can read the entire plan here.



24 thoughts on “How Official Plan To Reduce Visitors Will Impact You + Our Take”

  1. If I’m to believe many of the posters here Hawaii is going to have a pretty easy job of limiting visitors, they say they will never visit.
    It would be great to visit without the hordes. I’d be willing to pay more for the experience.

  2. Emphasize Hawaii grown and manufactured items,subsidize them if needed. Limit the number of rentals units available,cars allowed to be rented,and planes landing without raising prices to avoid restricting tourists to the wealthy.

    1. Restricting visitors to the wealth is exactly what the Mayor of Kauai is looking to do. He said “Kaua‘i aims to market itself towards a demographic of wealthy visitors. “We don’t want to be a budget destination,” Kawakami said. “We want to offer that premium experience to people who can co-exist with our way of life.””

      The bottom line is, if you reduce the number of visitors, how do keep the money flowing in at the same rate? Seems obvious, you do it the way the Mayor suggests. You get more upscale visitors who will spend more for a premium experience. That way you get the same amount of income, with fewer people.

  3. Why do they want to focus on Hawaiian made products if they don’t want any visitors there to buy them? I am really disappointed that I have a trip booked and paid for in October to go to the islands. My husband and I have been there twice and this time we are taking our children to show them the beauty. I feel very unwelcome after the way they have been treating visitors. I hope our trip isn’t a “nightmare”. This will definitely be the last time I go to these islands. There’s plenty of other place to explore. Mahalo

  4. All of this makes me so very sad. I love Hawaii. I am excited to be moving to my home in Hawaii permanently in the next months. But, I am saddened by what is happening. I currently live in California. The pandemic is terrible everywhere, not just in Hawaii. The worst part is how it is dividing people, the vaccine, the politics, the vaccinated vs. the unvaccinated. I see tourists here, in Hawaii, some are responsible, some are not. I think everyone is tired. Tired of being told what they are to do and not to do. The thing I see is, many these days care only for themselves. Whatever happened to common courtesy? This is the problem. If we all could be more courteous to one another, tourism would not be the problem. Entitled tourists are not good tourists, but it seems to me common courtesy is gone.

  5. There are no easy answers here.

    Hawaii’s visitation issues are a large genie long since out of the bottle. It will not return without struggle.

    The most effective action will require immense political and personal courage in order that social, financial, political and legal envelopes are pushed to accept solutions. It most likely will require a willingness for political self sacrifice.

    What is delineated above is akin rearranging the furniture on the deck of the Titanic.

    “The best way out is always through.”
    -Robert Frost

  6. Sigh. We cancelled yesterday for an Oct. 11 trip. Our great VRBO hosts refunded our deposit even though it was past the 2-month cancellation period. This would have been trip #32 for me in 14 years. I’ll be back–but I’ll wait until there’s more stability in setting policy.

    Our reasons weren’t our fears of “getting sick,” but the realization that so much that we like to do–especially museums and outdoor venues for hula and music–will be so limited that the costs/time to be there would be better spent later.

    I’m still sighing…three cancellations since May 2020. Sigh…

  7. Aloha happy September!!!

    This will be another failure by the government of Hawaii… Mothing more than blowing smoke!!!
    The first thing that needs to happen is the reimplement of the mandatory Covid test to tourists!!! Then the state MUST put a limit on the number of flights and passengers allowed into the state…
    Saying they will limit accommodations will do nothing to curb ignorant tourists who WILL end up sleeping on beaches and in cars…
    Get ready for a real lockdown and major loss of lives at the current trajectory and track record for the government!!!

    1. They’ve already reduced it by 2. After reading all the snarky comments from residents, we have no desire to ever return. Plenty of other places that are thrilled to get our money.

    2. People are upset because they cannot go on vacation freely now? Going to Hawaii during a pandemic where there are limited hospitals, supplies and medical personnel is just a not a good idea right now. Plain and simple, it’s selfish. Even the vaccinated are suspectable to this virus strain. People aren’t looking at the whole picture and are making selfish decisions that can effect their while familiy. It’s a matter of maturity to just Wait a little longer till this virus is under control. I know people will say, there will always be a virus, crowded hospitals, etc. But no. There is a Pandemic going on on the world right now that hasn’t happened in over 100 years! Sit tight, be safe and find your happy place inside yourself and enjoy life where you are, just a while longer. Hawaii will welcome you in every way when this is all over.

    3. Reimplementthe mandatory covid test for travelers? There is a mandatory covid test in place and has been for months.

      1. What about a mandatory Covid test for returning residents? Tourists don’t want to spend 10 days in quarantine but many residents are apparently OK with that and the risk of spreading Covid to their families and the community… Currently almost 90% of cases are residents on Kauai.

  8. My family has been traveling to Hawaii at least once each year for approaching 20 years. We’ve made close friends and were hoping to move there in the next five years, but the actions Hawaii ‘s government has taken during Covid and comments fro
    “native Hawaiians” has opened my eyes where I may not go back even for vacation. There’s too many closer places who seem more welcoming to visitors.

  9. I thought the state was near bankruptcy last year. What happened was Hawaii bailed out by the feds? Now they seem to think they can live without being plagued by the visitors. Will they raise taxes to extreme levels on the residents to fund their isolationist policies? I know they were trying to pass an 11 percent capital gains tax and raise income taxes. This is already having the effect of keep skilled doctors from moving to Hawaii as they fear they can not afford it. Why not encourage medical personnel to come to the islands with tax incentives rather than punitive actions. It is clear that the delta variant spread like wildfire after the unvaccinated (under age 12) keiki went back to school yet they have done nothing to stop it and in fact gave an exclusion from the vaccination passport requirement to them as well.

    1. David,

      It sounded like the plan outlined above is actually the long term plan not a plan to fight Covid.

      I also would love to hear: how did you imagine keiki being not allowed to restaurants, movie theaters, etc given there is no vaccine for under 12? Not to mention small businesses that cater to keiki in the first place. Or you suggesting that the whole population under 12 should be locked in their houses for indefinite period of time? Do you have keiki under 12 in your household?

      1. I have been to Maui a dozen times. Was my “happy place”. Dear Lord I had no idea I was a pest, vermin to population. I will not be spending my $20,000. a yr in that unfortunate State. By the way in Our Union. Aloha

  10. My daughter asked a few years ago if we could return to Hawaii in 2023 to celebrate her 21st birthday. It’s depressing to see all the little ways we’re reminded that we’re not particularly welcome.

  11. Reducing the number of people that visit Hawaii is not a solution to Covid-19. You need to get more of the people who live on Hawaii vaccinated, you need to limit the access to public places to only those that have been vaccinated, and the same would hold true for all restaurants and major retailers. Another discussion point is limiting people access to the hospital to only those that have been vaccinated. Having the hospital beds occupied by people who have not been vaccinated and not having beds for those who have been vaccinated is wrong. Not everyone has to be vaccinated, but they should not those that have been vaccinated and/or children under 12 who at this time cannot be vaccinated at risk for the decisions they make. Yes, not everything in this world is fair. But to reduce tourism that is the only source of income for Hawaii because a large percent of the population don’t want to get vaccinated is 100% wrong.

    1. Reducing tourism here goes pre covid this isn’t just because of vaccinations. Right now because of the limited amount of places to visit tourists are choosing to come here. But they arrive with this attitude like we can do whatever we want on your land because we paid for it. Only in the past year since the shut down have we become aware of how bad tourism has become and now residents like us are pushing back that we want to reduce it because there is so much disrespect towards our people, land the environment etc. enough is enough.

      1. My understanding is that Hawaii is part of the United States of America 🇺🇸. And as a native citizen of the United States of America I have the right to travel to any State.Hawaii is beautiful and I have only been there one time. But say you can restrict my movement in a free country is wrong. My husband served this country for 22 years and we come to relax and enjoy the beautiful culture of Hawaii. But you cannot violate my constitutional rights as a American Citizen. You do not own Hawaii The United States of America does. All of the people that are angry at the visitors do we not help your economy. I have only purchased items made by my sister and brothers of Hawaii to help support your family. I don’t know if I will ever be able to come back to Hawaii but if I do because I am disabled I must have a car rental.
        And I would most like to learn some of the native language. I know I don’t pronounce correctly.

        1. Ok, lots to unpack here. First of all, what happened to States Rights? Seems like people only trot those out when a state is doing something they like and they don’t want the Federal government to interfere. But in a case like this, they ignore that. Second, Hawaii isn’t preventing you from traveling there. They are just putting some rules in place that you have to abide by in order to travel there. Making it inconvenient for you isn’t a violation of your “civil rights”.

      2. Erika, The majority of tourists are respectful of the places they visit in Hawaii. How can you blame us tourists for trashing trails and beaches when the local party people frequently have large rave parties on the beaches, leave large amounts of trash and disrespect their own beaches? Hawaiian residents are flying all over and returning with exposure to covid, but we in L.A. say nothing when they arrive at LAX to cheer their teams at football games. That’s like me telling Hawaiian residents to stay away from Disneyland because it’s too busy when I visit. Look within. Most of us mean no disrespect to any of you. If the Hawaiian government would limit the flights into the islands, that would limit your tourism “problem” immensely.

        1. RJ, I’ll let Erika respond t the majority of what you say. However, I would like to point out that while it’s a small percentage of tourists that are problematic, as the number of tourists has grown that number of problem tourists have grown as well. Also, please keep in mind that the mere presence of large numbers of people is problematic in and of it self. So, they don’t have to be rude tourists, just the fact that they are there in large numbers can create damage.

          It’s a problem, for sure, but it’s all got to be balanced with the fact that Hawaii has a tourism based economy. That means no tourists, no jobs. But no one is saying “no tourists”. I think that what the government of Hawaii is looking for is to make sure that the number of tourists doesn’t exceed the infrastructure’s capacity. Problems with traffic, parking, and crowds at the beaches is a great example of that. These are real issues, and need to be addressed, the question is how? BTW, the state doesn’t have the ability to limit the number of flights coming into Hawaii. That’s managed via the federal government (it’s interstate commerce).

    2. Robert, while I agree with you that Hawaii’s current approach to addressing COVID isn’t particularly good/effective, this article is really about the longer term issue that Hawaii, and other places in the world, are having. Specifically, because they have done such a good job promoting tourism, that influx of visitors is having a negative effect on the very reason that people are coming to Hawaii. This impact is not just on the beaches, trails, etc. but on the culture, and general wellbeing of native Hawaiians. That’s the issue that is trying to be address by limiting the number of tourists coming to the islands. The problem is that over the years Hawaii’s economy has become dependant on tourism. So, any attempt to limit the influx of visitors would potentially have a negative economic impact. So the thing that the government of Hawaii is struggling with is how to balance all of this? Some of the ideas in the article are ways to help, but will they work? A big part of the problem is that Big Tourism has an outsized influence in Hawaiian politics, so any plan to curb the number of visitors is going to run headlong into a political buzzsaw. Kauai’s major suggested that he would be OK with a smaller number of visitors that spent more to make up the difference in revenue from tourism. Can you imagine the reaction that got from the folks on the mainland that need to visit Hawaii “on the cheap”? What’s sad is that all of this is going to mean that the problem is not going to be effectively addressed, which in the end means that the very reason that people come to Hawaii is going to be destroyed, and then people will stop coming anyway.


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