Be careful what you read in the news; who doesn’t know that? Some articles would make you think you are about to pay a $50 “green” or “visitor impact” fee on your upcoming Hawaii vacation.
It was first discussed by now-Governor Josh Green, who made it a focus when he ran for governor. Later he retrenched on it because an entrance fee to a state is clearly illegal. How he ever thought that it wasn’t is even more bizarre.
What about the $50 fee for state parks, beaches, trails, etc.?
Still, don’t worry about it. While some bills may move forward, even soon, to require that visitors pay an annual $50 fee for state-owned and managed resources, that is also not happening for now.
Of all the bills being considered, just one appears likely to continue (SB304). It will, in the end, result in no changes for the foreseeable future, if ever. That bill is putting the amount of the annual fee on hold, while virtually all proposals have called for a five-year moratorium on implementing any such ones.
If it ever comes to being enacted, the bill would allow for permits or licenses, as they are now being called, to be acquired online or through physical locations. Remember that any penalties for non-compliance are years off, if ever.
How could this ever be enforced?
Even as the state envisions its Department of Land and Natural Resources hiring five staff, this is ludicrous. DLNR wasn’t able to answer questions posed to it about enforcement. Since some are physically adjacent, how will visitors even know when they cross between a county park and a state park? And what about beaches? Those of us who live here don’t know whether we are at a county or state beach necessarily. So how could visitors be expected to know? Should we ping them on their phones whenever they approach a state facility so that they pay up or get fined?
That all presumes that the way in which Hawaii might implement such a fee would fly in court.
These statewide plans cannot be compared with park-specific rules such as those for Diamond Head State Monument, Hanauma Bay State Park, or Haena State Park, which are easy to enforce due to clear physical isolation, among other things.
Future money collected to go to a special fund? Ha.
The state is notorious for earmarking funds for special needs, like protecting and preserving its natural resources. In the end, many believe the money would end up in the state’s general fund. If the money was invested directly for its intended purposes, perhaps there would be more widespread support. Otherwise, it can easily be seen as another aspect of Hawaii’s bottomless pit of tourism greed.
DLNR is a proponent of such fees and wants to create grants for funding nonprofits in some form. DLNR said, “The establishment of green fees in several other tourism-focused economies has allowed places like the Republic of Palau, Galapagos Islands, New Zealand, and the Maldives to allow greater investment in their natural resources — reducing the overall impact of tourism on their environments, improving the quality of visitor experiences, and supporting community stewardship of these special places.”
Visitors deserve to know where the 18% accommodation tax they currently pay is going.
Visitors naturally wonder where the highest accommodation tax in the country goes. It certainly isn’t apparent in the woefully lacking Hawaii infrastructure.
Furthermore, there is widespread disgust, by residents and visitors, at how the state (and counties) are maintaining these areas. Roads and restrooms in disrepair, as one example, are abhorrent to many and are antithetical to asking for more money.
The additional $50, albeit far off in the future, adds insult to injury.