Hawaii’s plans to introduce a tourist fee were delayed after policymakers didn’t reach an agreement regarding the measure’s details in time for the deadline. The proposed law is intended for tourists to help pay for the protection of Hawaii’s delicate ecosystems, covering fees for its state parks and trails.
“All I want to do, honestly, is to make travellers accountable and have the capacity to help pay for the impact that they have,” said Hawaii’s Democratic Governor Josh Green, quoted by Euronews.
1. Policymakers in disagreement
The Governor and House and Senate leaders backed the concept and a 2022 public opinion survey conducted by the Hawaii Tourism Authority showed broad support for charging visitors to access state parks and trails. The fee would have been set at €45 and it would follow the example set in other tourism hotspots that have imposed similar taxes like Venice, Italy, and Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands.
“We get between nine and 10 million visitors a year [but] we only have 1.4 million people living here. Those 10 million travellers should be helping us sustain our environment,” added Green.
Democratic state Senator Chris Lee said the bulk of the discussion at the legislature was related to the method of how to actually implement the fee, rather than the contents of the bill itself. For example, lawmakers didn’t agree on how to have visitors pay for upkeep, improvements and protection of parks and natural resources.
“I don’t think the bill failed to pass on the merits of the legislation and of the idea that we ought to be leveraging visitors to pay for these things,” said Lee.
I think it was more the question of how and when.Chris Lee, Democratic state Senator
2. Tackling overtourism
Home to around 25,000 unique species, Hawaii has been a popular destination for a long time, welcoming more than nine million visitors per year with a population around 1.5 million. The impact of ouvertourism is already notorious with coral reefs damaged from boats run aground and native forests plagued by a killer fungus outbreak. Carissa Cabrera, Project Manager for the Hawaii Green Fee, a coalition of nonprofit groups supporting a fee, said the bill got already a step farther than the previous legislative discussions past and had more support than ever before.
3. The fee will come
Lee said he expects the bill to come up for consideration again next year and he is confident that lawmakers will come together to pass it. He said there’s an appetite for steps that will reduce the effects of tourism on the environment and cut costs for residents.
“With all the feedback we’ve received from this year’s legislation, we are optimistic that we can develop a detailed bill for the next session that will ensure a more sustainable future for our keiki,” said the spokesperson for Democratic Governor Josh Green, Makana McClellan, using the Hawaiian word for children.