Wednesday, March 22, 2023
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Saturday, August 7, 2021
From "E komo mai" to "Stay away"?
By Keli'i Akina PhD @ 5:45 PM :: 2681 Views :: Taxes, Tourism

From "E komo mai" to "Stay away"?

by Keli'i Akina, Ph.D., President / CEO Grassroot Institute 

Hawaii is more than happy to tax the golden goose of tourism. But when it comes to feeding, caring for and cleaning up after it, we can’t seem to get on the same page.

Last week, the Hawaii Tourism Authority announced a plan to decrease tourism on Oahu. Yes, the agency originally tasked with promoting tourism to the islands is now suddenly waving a “Stay away” sign.

How its new goal will be accomplished is not entirely clear, especially as the agency’s enforcement powers are limited. But there is discussion of a tourism cap, as well as managing the visitors’ use of cars, limiting the number of visitor accommodations and making changes to land use and zoning laws.

The agency and its supporters are calling its new mission “destination management.” But this only leads to bigger questions about what Hawaii’s residents really want when it comes to the future of tourism. 

HTA’s current management is making the big assumption that Hawaii residents want less tourism. They are equating concerns about overcrowding and environmental impact with a desire for fewer tourists. That certainly reflects the complaints you sometimes hear. But where is the data? 

Who feels that way and what is their investment in the community and local economy? How is the current mood affected by lingering concerns about the pandemic and lockdown? What will happen to our economy — especially different sectors of the visitor industry — if HTA’s plan is successful? Is there any data that supports HTA’s vision of Hawaii’s tourism future as realistic and economically sustainable?

This new “tourism reduction” plan also gives lie to the notion that the HTA exists to support the visitor industry. Clearly, it exists to support only some sectors of the industry. Others, like the vacation rentals that will be targeted in the effort to reduce tourism, are in the strange position of funding the source of their own demise. 

This is one of the reasons that the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii supports defunding the HTA. The government should not be in a position to choose winners and losers among local businesses. That should be a function of the market, not a decision made by bureaucrats.

Let’s not forget that at the same time that the HTA is trying to suppress tourism, the counties are looking to benefit from it. With the passage of the law allowing counties to levy a transient accommodations tax of up to 3% (on top of the existing 10.25% state TAT), there has been a rush to enact county TATs. 

On Oahu, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation — desperate for cash to fund its over-budget and behind-schedule rail megaproject — has even tried to stake a claim to a share of the county TAT, guaranteeing that tourism dollars will remain vital to the county budget.

So where does that leave us? 

>> We have hikes on tourism taxes that make the government ever-more-reliant on the visitor industry and its revenues.

>> We have a “destination management” agency that receives taxpayer dollars to come up with plans to inhibit tourism. Though intended to represent the stakeholders in the tourism industry, the HTA seems to pick and choose whose interests it truly represents. 

>> And we have a state that is still recovering from the pandemic and lockdown, where the visitor industry is recovering faster than expected, but the jobs and economy are still lagging behind.

Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate what the future of tourism in Hawaii should be and what the proper place of government is in shaping it. The Legislature took a first step in cutting off HTA’s TAT funding, to make it more accountable to the taxpayers. Now, we need to determine if there is a better way to manage the promotion — and effects — of our visitor industry.

Let us not forget that the current haphazard approach to “destination management” could have disastrous long-term effects on an industry that functions as our state’s economic engine. The government has been prodding, poking and changing the diet of the goose that lays golden eggs. Continuing down this path could end up killing it, or make it very ill. 

That’s why we must work together on a coherent tourism policy that looks to the future and relies on solid data, one in which the private sector and the government can each play their respective roles.

E hana kākou! (Let's work together!)




TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote


808 Silent Majority

ACA Signups Hawaii

Alliance Defending Freedom

Aloha Pregnancy Care Center

American Council of Trustees and Alumni


Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Astronomy Hawaii

Back da Blue Hawaii

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Better Hawaii

Broken Trust

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

DVids Hawaii


Fix Oahu!

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Credit Union Watch

Hawaii Crop Improvement Association

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federalist Society

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii Future Project

Hawaii Gathering of Eagles

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Homeschool Association

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii Legal News

Hawaii Legal Short-Term Rental Alliance

Hawaii Matters

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Smokers Alliance

Hawaii State Data Lab

Hawaii Together



Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

House Minority Blog

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

Investigative Project on Terrorism

July 4 in Hawaii

Kakaako Cares

Keep Hawaii's Heroes

Land and Power in Hawaii

Legislative Committee Analysis Tool

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Malulani Foundation

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui

Military Home Educators' Network Oahu

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

NAMI Hawaii

National Christian Foundation Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

NFIB Hawaii News

No GMO Means No Aloha

Not Dead Yet, Hawaii

NRA-ILA Hawaii

Oahu Alternative Transport


OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

PEACE Hawaii

People vs Machine

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii


Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

ReRoute the Rail

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

Robotics Organizing Committee

Save Dillingham Airfield

School Choice in Hawaii

Sink the Jones Act

Statehood for Guam

Talking Tax

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

UCC Truths

US Tax Foundation Hawaii Info

VAREP Honolulu

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii