HONOLULU (KHON2) — As tourism makes a strong return, lawmakers are taking into account community concerns about the impacts on the environment. They are considering ways visitors could pay to fund solutions.
Several bills have gone through this year’s legislative session trying to find ways to reduce the impacts of tourism and proposing visitors be the ones to foot the bill.
Visitors trends show this year’s travel will surpass pre-pandemic levels. On Tuesday, more than 29,000 passengers arrived on the islands, exceeding 2019’s numbers by more than 1,200.
With all that increased foot traffic on beaches, parks, and trails, lawmakers are proposing an impact fee only for visitors.
The Maui Lodging and Tourism Association Executive Director Lisa Paulson agrees that something needs to be done.
“We’re in full support, which is an impact fee that would be charged at the area where the visitor is visiting and utilizing the resource the impact fee,” Paulson said. “For us, we’re very supportive of it because it has a nexus and it can be used for the sight where it’s being charged.”
The bill has not advanced, but a separate proposal to adjust the tax on tourists based on travel trends remains alive. Senate Bill 775 proposes taxes to go up along with tourism, and the extra revenue would be used to fund state departments and non-profits for projects to reduce environmental impacts.
Malama Pupukea Waimea volunteer President Denise Antolini testified in favor of the proposition.
Antolini said, “We support this bill, it brings additional resources that benefit everyone visitors, residents and the aina.”
But visitors like Matias Diaz Valdes who travel from Chile said the added costs to visit the state would not be ideal.
“Visitors like us, who came from far away, I’m not so sure it is very good,” Diaz Valdes said. “But for the people who came more than one or two times in the year, I think it’s OK.”
Paulson still hopes impact fees to visit public beaches, parks and other attractions could still pass this year’s legislative session.
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Paulson said, “We’ve seen it many times in many past legislative sessions where you know the language that’s in a good bill just ends up getting adopted into something else, that’s very similar.”