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.