Looser travel restrictions, influx of visitors cause Hawaii officials to find tourism management solutions

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii is anticipating more visitors come Thursday, July 8, following Gov. David Ige’s announcement of looser travel restrictions.

Things are looking like pre-pandemic days in some areas like Waikiki.

On Kauai and Maui, however, officials fear it will be too much, too soon.

“It was maybe a little too fast for Maui as an island, however we are going to manage it and come out of this Maui nui strong,” said Mike Victorino, mayor of Maui County.

Tourism management is something the Maui County Council has been working on.

“We’re looking at Oahu, because I think Hanauma Bay is a good example of how you charge fees, you take reservations, and then that way, there’s a more orderly type of experience for everyone,” said Alice Lee, Maui County Council Chair.

Similar measures are being considered on the Garden Isle, where daily mainland visitor numbers have jumped from a couple of hundred people a day back in March to about 2,500 a day in June.

“In all honesty, it looks like we’re at capacity or near capacity as far as the amount of visitors goes,” said Derek Kawakami, mayor of Kauai County.

Restaurants are anticipating the changes to capacity rules but worker shortages are adding an element of stress.

“That doesn’t help us for growing in capacity or having more demand, because the reality is the demand is already there on all the islands,” said Dylan Ching, TS Restaurants vice president of operations. “They’re running on what what we would call max capacity right now, because of the rules and because of the shortages.”

Officials hope they can find a solution to benefit both local residents’ and visitors’ experiences.

“We’re hoping that this work will get us back to some kind of balance and working with the industry to get away from over tourism and over reliance to diversify our economy,” said Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, a Maui County council member.

Maui County officials say they plan on working with State legislators to find other options to better manage tourism.

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