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