Maui News

Residents, industry reps debate plan to cap Maui visitor units

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Some residents backed a plan to cap Maui’s transient accommodations, while industry testifiers questioned whether a ceiling would have unintended legal and financial consequences during a Maui County Council committee meeting Wednesday.

The council’s Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee discussed a more than 400-page tourism management report, which includes a proposal to place caps on all transient accommodations. 

Details on the proposal will be ironed out with county’s Planning and Real Property Tax departments. Then, it will be posted to council and will likely be referred to the council’s Planning and Sustainable Land Use committee for further vetting.

During Wednesday’s meeting, industry representatives and people who own transient accommodations testified that jobs, county real property tax income and investments would suffer if caps are implemented.

Toral Patel, Airbnb Inc. spokeswoman, said the plan would have unintended negative consequences for the local economy.

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“Airbnb played a critical role in pandemic recovery,” she said. “In 2021, the typical host of Hawaii earned over $11,000 — this represents about two extra months of pay for the median US household.”

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Dave Jorgensen, American Resort Development Association Hawaii lobbyist, said caps would leave no room for growth. 

“Similar to other industries, the growth of the tourism and timeshare industry is market based and management should be done in a reasonable manner taking into consideration current infrastructure and framework that can allow reasonable growth,” he said.

Kula resident Dick Mayer disagreed that tourism should be demand based, though.

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“Everybody in the world wants to come to Maui — we have no obligation to provide accommodations for everybody in the world,” he testified. “What we need to do is make sure the the quality of life for the residents of maui is as high as possible.”

Supporters of the cap said the tourism industry is unfettered and greater management is needed. 

Makawao resident Toni Marie Davis said that although she works in the tourism industry, she supports a cap on transient accommodations.

“As part of Mayor Victorino’s over-tourism committee prior to COVID, I studied places around the world where over-tourism happened, and the root cause that was common in every single one of them was transient accommodations,” she said. “Capping these is really crucial; it ruins the fabric of the communities and it does out place longterm rentals.”

Kawehi Kina testified in support of the TIG’s recommendations as well.

“This is super important and should be implemented as soon as possible,” she said.

The tourism management report also discusses regulating peer-to-peer car sharing, banning transient vacation rentals in certain districts and setting rules for campers.

The report was completed by a temporary investigative group comprising four council members: council Vice Chairwoman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, Chairwoman Alice Lee and members Shane Sinenci and Tamara Paltin.

They met with industry and community participants over the course of seven meetings starting last year. 

Kehaulani Cerizo
Kehaulani Cerizo was born and raised on Maui and worked for nearly 15 years as a news reporter, copy editor and features editor at daily newspapers. She earned awards at The Maui News in Wailuku and at Today’s Local News in San Diego.
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