Plan Eliminating Half Of Maui Vacation Rentals Was Years In Making

Why Hawaii Tourism’s Shocking Return Hit Maui Hardest

For more than a year, we Hawaii residents had the islands to ourselves in the most unimaginable way possible. We’d seen it like this only once before, in 2008-2009, during the financial turndown, but still, it was nothing like this. Nothing.

Then, as quickly as tourism stopped, it restarted with a flood of Hawaii vacation starved visitors.

The shock that hit the islands and continues to reverberate. 

We know that tourism was something of a mixed bag for decades. It keeps the economy going, which we love. But, we dislike it at times because of traffic, crowded beaches, and more.

The pace with which it has rebounded continues to amaze everyone, industry stakeholders included. Domestic arrivals are significantly outpacing 2019 numbers.

Maui is screaming the loudest. 

Maui is struggling to manage the sheer number of flights and visitors that it has attracted. As with many places across the country, and perhaps worse than most, there aren’t enough workers to keep the visitor industry going. But that’s just the beginning of the problems.

How bad is it? Bad enough that Maui Mayor Victorino wants the airlines to reduce the number of flights to the island. “We don’t have the authority to say stop, but we are asking the powers to be to help us.” Addressing the airlines, he said, “it’s the airlift that really drives all of this. Without airlift, people don’t come.”

At one point, and not long ago, Maui courted and welcomed the arrival of Southwest Airlines flights to Maui. That carrier alone now flies to Maui from Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Phoenix, San Jose, Sacramento, and San Diego. Alaska Airlines has 10 flights a day to Maui, while Hawaiian Airlines has many more. And don’t forget American, Delta, and United flights too.

Maui to levy visitor accommodation taxes 3%.

The county plans to implement its own 3% tax as quickly as possible. That is in addition to the current taxes.  As a result of this, Hawaii’s accommodation tax will become the highest in the US. And, as we said before, “you can anticipate the combined tax on hotels and vacation rentals to be approximately 18% going forward.”

Hawaii has not fully reopened.

Hawaii has lifted some Covid restrictions. Yet, it doesn’t plan to eliminate all of them unless and until the state crosses the line when 70% of Hawaii’s population is vaccinated. As of today, that number is just 58.9%.

At the same time, with its low Covid rates, Hawaii is one of the world’s most in-demand destinations. And it seems that Maui, more than any other island, is the desired vacation spot.

We noted recently that the rapid spread of the Delta variant would result in more iconic destinations reimposing restrictions and raising fears about added travel rules. “This uncertainty will keep Hawaii the #1 Travel Pick through 2022.

Maui is anticipating domestic arrivals to equal or exceed 2019 levels, given all of the new flights.

And yet, restaurants, as just one example, are still only operating at a limited capacity and some only during restricted hours. As a result of multiple issues, some of the most popular Maui restaurants have amassed waiting lists months long.

Bad island traffic exemplified along famed Hana Highway.

The Maui mayor recently addressed traffic and illegal parking on the road to Hana. For one thing, there are just too many cars. Also, visitors stopping to take pictures along the epic route often block traffic on the narrow road. The major mentioned concern is that emergency vehicles are now being impeded by the traffic situation.

Something will need to change on that road. That’s for sure. Read New fees, fines, and systems coming to Maui and all Hawaii visitors.

Calls for more changes on Maui.

Some are asking for a reduction in visitors to overage no more than a specific percentage of the total population, perhaps 33%. Currently, tourism is running at up to 45% of the total population. Others are calling for a moratorium on new hotel construction. Some officials said that while residents are frustrated with returning tourism, they still appreciate the visitors. One council member said that visitors “are our #1 economic driver. They create jobs. So they’re very important to us. But people are saying we want to have a balance.” That seems to be the key in the entire discussion, balance.

Visitors and locals share the frustration.

Those in the visitor industry say they are dealing with angry and frustrated travelers who have a hard time finding places to eat, park and stay. Unfortunately, no one seems all too happy at the moment.

Also read: What It Feels Like Now: From Zero to 💯 As Hawaii Travel Hits New Records.

Would you please let us know what changes you’d like to see on Maui?


48 thoughts on “Why Hawaii Tourism’s Shocking Return Hit Maui Hardest”

  1. More Hawaiian locals need to get vaccinated in order to get a handle of the Corona virus. Workers also need to return to work.

  2. I’m curious, since Hawaii is that busy, why are they opening up to some overseas travel ? That’s going to add a lot more to the reported overcrowding.

  3. My local friends on Maui are complaining that the visitors seem a bit out of control, probably due to being cooped up for a year. Many instances of disrespectful behavior and issue with wearing a mask. We love to host visitors to all Hawaii but please be mindful of Hawaiian respect and customs. I am sure the rude tourists rpresents a small percentage of visitors. A bit of aloha goes a long way!

  4. Same ol’ same ol’. This exact same debate has been ongoing since Captain Cook first set foot on the islands–and the natives killed him. It’s a love / hate relationship (tourists love Hawaii / locals hate the tourists) that will never change… EVER.

  5. We went to Honolulu in April, talk about feeling unwelcome by airport staff by security. It seems the authorities were the ones that treated us worse. Outside mall where they supposedly required masks and so we did but many did not but one time my wife just had hers pulled down from her nose and was rudely told by security to get it on while people walking by didn’t even have them on. Let me tell you, the businesses everywhere welcomed us as if there was no pandemic. It’s just another smack down to control, well you do not have to worry about this vacationer, I won’t be back. Not impressed with the ridiculous prices and rude authorities and the worse amenities on excursions and lame Luau’s. You definitely do not get what you pay for in Hawaii, visit somewhere else where you are welcomed.

  6. We have been to Hawaii many times in the past 40 years. It’s still one of my favorite places on earth. We have Mostly split our time between Maui and Oahu, with a couple of trips to The Big Island and to Kauai. I still miss the kitschy souvenir shops, the friendly locals, the ability to go anywhere on the islands with little or no traffic, the absence of fast food chains and low rise hotels. Airfare was reasonable, hotels catered to all economic levels. I know, it’s a different world today. It’s not the same where I live either. The airlines will only fly full planes, the hotels will only operate at full capacity and vacation condos can’t survive without patrons. Raising prices only limits the economic circumstances of the travelers, but doesn’t guarantee that the visitors will be respectful of the natural wonders or the locals. I agree with previous posters that limiting visitors to “attractions” as is done elsewhere, can work, but only if advertised along with the booking of air and hotel (condo). Visitors need to know before they put money into a trip, or you end up with unpleasant and obnoxious visitors. As for restaurants, we are on vacation, we don’t want to spend our precious vacation time waiting in line for a meal, and, a large percent of the travelers are 1st timers, they don’t know where they want to eat, months before their trip. And, restaurants don’t always survive between trips. Establishments that want the business, need to step up, pay their employees a livable wage so that they can accommodate patrons. I hope to come back soon. But, I think I’ll wait until the rest of the world reopens, and maybe things will be better.
    Thanks for letting me rant

    1. We have been visiting Maui almost every year since 1998. I totally agree with everything you said, especially missing the quaint towns/shops, empty roads and beaches, etc.

  7. Parking is the BIGGEST issue from beaches to the road to Hana.
    And there is no reason not to create more parking.
    As for the restaurants not returning to full capacity while travel has that is on the locals that have not received their vaccination.
    Only 58% whats up with that? most states have already passed 70%

    1. Well, there IS actually a reason not to create more parking… several of them. (1) Hawaiian government–both local / county and state–is completely inept and dysfunctional. Look no further than the Oahu rail project to confirm that. Any time any new construction or infrastructure projects are proposed–even something as simple and necessary as a parking lot–get ready for an uproar from “the locals”… and claims of burial grounds and sacred lands, yada yada yada–that will tie up the project for years–if not forever. (2) Hawaii is completely broke–at both the county and state levels–despite extracting hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars from tourists over the years. Why? Huge state and county bureaucracies–and massive social programs–instead of investing that money wisely in common-sense infrastructure projects over the years (like widening/improving the road to Hana decades ago–when the traffic first started–and continuing / connecting / improving that road all the way around the back side of Haleakalā–like any intelligent state or county government would have also done decades ago). So it’s not like these fools don’t KNOW what needs to be done to solve these problems… they just don’t have the intelligence or the mandate to actually do them.

      1. No, no, no, no! There is a reason why the road to Hana or our back side road to Hana has to be upgraded. They don’t want to, other than making sure the bridges are safe to cross over and the road doesn’t have holes in it, is the only things that need to be taken care of over there. The Hana community don’t want all those people going back there. It is a different world there, still true Hawaii and we want to keep it that way.
        As far as our social programs, mind your own business! We want to take care of our people and especially our Kapuna! Yes we have social programs and Lord willing they will continue. Too many people come here that cannot care for themselves and become homeless. Hawaii is not a dumping ground for your mainland homeless people. These people should not come here. That would help to alleviate some of our money going into social programs. By the way every now and then we give homeless people one-way tickets to go back to the mainland as long as they have somewhere to go back to. That being said part of the reason we need these social programs is because you mainlanders come over here and buy up our properties and put high prices for rent on them. Locals cannot afford to pay higher rents. So don’t spout off about our intelligence or mandate. We have our reasons why we do things the way we do. Our heart is for the aina and our people.

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