As island tourism continues to recover in the summer, a new survey of residents finds support for better regulation of tourism, including more government controls that could limit the number of popular travel destinations across the state and increase user fees To offset the impact of tourists across the state, the islands.
“The big lesson here is that people want the state to be directly involved in tourism management,” said Colin Moore, director of the University of Hawaii Public Policy Center, which commissioned the survey released Tuesday. “It’s not that there’s an enormous love for the state. But I don’t think people trust the industry to self-manage on many ideas that seem to have a lot of public support including hotspot management, increasing fees for tourists to pay for many things, and support for a state agency that would manage tourism. “
The online survey of 700 respondents was conducted by Anthology Research between April 16 and May 3 and had a 3.7% error rate.
The results – which Moore called “nuanced” – are an indication of how the islanders feel about tourism after the bumpy past few years. Hawaii’s largest economic contributor saw a record 10 million visitors in 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic crippled the state’s economy, resulting in the worst economy in the country and the highest unemployment rate at various points in 2020.
“Not having everything overcrowded was nice,” said Moore. “What you see in the poll is that people are really struggling with this reality. There is really a desire to make a change to manage it more effectively as people understand that tourism is our number 1 industry. ”
A majority of residents – 52% – would prefer to limit the number of visitors. A whopping 78% would like visitors to have to pay entrance fees and / or make reservations in parks or other “hot spots” at peak times.
No specific hot spots were named in the survey, but Moore said they would generally mean popular beach and park destinations on Oahu such as Diamond Head and parts of the North Shore, among others.
Governor David Ige and others have often pointed to stricter regulations at Haena State Park on the north coast of Kauai as a potential model for a new type of tourism after floods and landslides temporarily cut off the region in 2018.
Parking is now regulated at Haena State Park, and volunteers share the history of the area.
About 38% of UH survey respondents are in favor of rental car surcharges as a means of payment for the tourism impact, compared to 19% who oppose it.
And 40% would be in favor of so-called “green fees” or tourist taxes to protect natural resources, while 18% are against.
Respondents sent the message that they want both the state and the Hawaii Tourism Authority to be involved in better regulating tourism rather than simply marketing Hawaii to more tourists, Moore said.
About 80% said the state should regulate travel operations in public parks “heavily” or “somewhat”, impose strict requirements on green electricity for vacation areas and test some tourism companies for the accuracy of cultural and historical information.
And around 75% of those questioned would like rules for vacation rentals outside of vacation areas.
“People want a lot more practical regulation, control,” said Moore. “There are very few who want the market to dictate what happens. And there is definitely support for strict regulation of vacation rentals. People feel they want a little more control over what happens in their neighborhood. “
While the state legislature exercised more economic control over the HTA in its last session by restricting its flow of funding, residents want the HTA to play a role in regulating tourism rather than just marketing Hawaii to the world, Moore said.
A majority of 35% of respondents would both maintain HTA and increase their authority. And the idea of a “permanent tourism advisory board” made up of residents and representatives of the industry was supported by 34% of those surveyed, while 15% rejected the idea.
A majority of 45% said: “Depends on how it’s done”.
“They want a combination of enforcement and rethinking – 35% actually want HTA to have more powers that could be some sort of enforcement agency,” said Moore.
“People are more interested in the regulatory management part than the marketing,” said Moore. “You are not sure whether we have to market tourism more, but we have to manage it better.”
A slim majority – 52% – opposed casino gambling in Hawaii.