State tourism management bill advances; Maui ‘clamoring’ for solutions, McKelvey says
Anticipating resident backlash against over-tourism as the industry rebounds, state lawmakers today advanced a bill that would set money aside to study and implement tourism management.
West Maui Rep. Angus McKelvey, House Committee on Government Reform chairman and one of the bill’s authors, said Maui has been seeking tourism management for a long time.
“Maui has been clamoring for better management of tourism for years,” he said in a news release. “West and South Maui, in particular, have borne the brunt of over-tourism, which has impacted the quality life of our community.”
The bill, which requests a study of governance systems and oversight from other jurisdictions, was passed by the state Senate Ways and Means Committee today. It now moves into conference where House and Senate members will iron out details.
Economists have said the state may see 9 million visitors this year, and exceed its all-time high of 10.3 million visitors by 2025.
“As tourism rebounds, lawmakers are preparing for an anticipated backlash due to ‘over tourism,'” the release said.
HB 1785 will help “blunt any community angst toward visitors,” it added.
One part of the bill will produce in two years a study on alternative tourism governance by the Legislative Reference Bureau. The other portion will help Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority execute recently completed destination management plans.
The bill will focus on regenerative tourism, with an emphasis on sustainability and cultural awareness, McKelvey said.
Lawmakers are adding $60 million to execute the new direction, the release said.
The last two years, HTA created destination management plans based on four major pillars: culture, community, natural resources and marketing.
“This bill puts these goals and objectives in law and aligns HTA’s organization to execute the governance recommendations resulting from the study,” Sen. Glenn Wakai, Chairman of the Energy, Economic Development and Tourism Committee, said in the release. “We also adjusted the budget to ensure funds are spent in accordance with the pillars.”
HTA in testimony said that it strongly supports the measure.
However, the effort won’t be without challenges, according to Colin Moore, Director of the Public Policy Center at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
He testified in support of the bill but said that HTA has a “public image problem” and many residents hold the agency responsible for “over-tourism.”
“If the Aloha Spirit toward visitors is to be protected, public faith in the legitimacy of our tourism management system must be restored,” he wrote. “This study will help us understand how to do that.”
The UH Public Policy Center’s 2021 survey showed that about 52% of respondents would prefer limiting the number of visitors, with even stronger support for this policy on Neighbor Islands and among Native Hawaiians, Moore said.
HTA’s Resident Sentiment Survey registered a dramatic increase in the number of people who believe that tourism brings more problems than benefits, he added.
Maui County Council recently completed its own tourism management study conducted by a council subcommittee.
After months of strong testimony to curb the negative impacts of tourism, council members pushed past a veto by Mayor Michael Victorino to temporarily ban the construction of new transient accommodation units while a study on tourism management is done.