The under-regulated growth of transient accommodations has caused an excessive increase in tourism, which negatively impacts the environment, overwhelms county infrastructure and diminishes residents’ quality of life.
Residents’ concerns are valid and timely as transient arrivals are quickly returning to, or have even exceeded, pre-pandemic numbers.
The transient-to-resident ratio is out of proportion to established policy. The Maui Island Plan, approved nine years ago after extensive community engagement, calls for a daily visitor count of no more than one-third of the resident population.
According to the State of Hawai?i’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, Maui’s daily visitor count grew from over 46,000 in 2010 to nearly 70,000 in 2019. Over the same period, the resident population remained steady at around 150,000.
As of two years ago, Maui exceeded the visitor-resident ratio cap established by Ordinance 4004 (2012). In response, the council has recently deliberated on two proposals to temporarily pause the increase of visitor accommodations by enacting one or more moratorium ordinances.
Tourism management emphasizes benefits for both residents and the industry itself, as seen in the Hawai’i Tourism Authority’s 2020-2025 strategic plan.
The HTA also stands with the Maui County Council, Kaua’i County Council, Hawai’i County Council and all four county mayors in endorsing the ‘Aina Aloha Economic Futures Declaration. Initiated last year by Native Hawaiian leaders, including Kamanamaikalani Beamer, the declaration is grounded in the understanding that it is our kuleana to manage our resources in a way that allows us to fulfill our ‘aina aloha role.
More equitable and effective management of the industry and its impacts on residents’ quality of life has been a council priority, as supported in our budgetary decisions and policy resolutions.
One year ago, the council adopted a resolution I introduced, formally supporting “feminist economic recovery,” which was an indication that the council would not tolerate a return to economic and environmental habits that do not justly serve our residents.
On Feb. 5, the council endorsed a quality-over-quantity policy for tourism by adopting Resolution 21-18, which underscored our commitment to “sustainable and strategically managed tourism — rather than an increasing quantity of tourists — to promote economic well-being, enhanced quality of life for residents, preservation of natural and cultural resources and high-quality experiences for visitors,” introduced by Council Member Kelly King.
On April 6, I introduced two county communications (CC 21-174 and CC 21-176) addressing transient impacts to our resident beach park access, reserving 50 percent of the parking for residents and monetizing parking for tourists to pay for enforcement and management of the program.
The fiscal year 2022 budget emphasizes tourism management over promotion. The appropriation for visitor marketing, which went up year after year for many budgets, was removed, allowing funds to be redirected to help manage visitor impacts.
I have initiated the necessary steps to form a temporary investigative group, or “TIG,” on tourism management within the Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee. TIGs allow for two to four council members to meet continuously with various resources for in-depth research on specific topics, and a TIG has recently been used to successfully implement property-tax reform.
A main focus of this TIG will be a substantial reduction of vacation rentals, including the approximately 11,000 units on the short-term occupancy list and aggressive enforcement of illegal transient accommodations. This is an effort that is supported by the hotel industry and unions alike, and I look forward to working closely with them during the TIG process. Steering tourism back into the hotel and resort areas is of high priority.
I’m confident the TIG will generate effective policies in a timely manner for tourism management that aligns with our community’s values and actively works to preserve our quality of life standards.
Please continue to submit testimony to the council on this topic at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please feel free to share your thoughts with me directly at Keani.Rawlins@mauicounty.us.
* Keani Rawlins-Fernandez is vice chair of the Maui County Council and chairs the Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee. She holds the County Council seat for the Moloka?i residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.