Maui’s Mayor Mike Victorino wants tourism break



The call for managed tourism is rising across the state as the Hawaiian visitor industry advances into summer at a pace approaching, or in some cases, exceeding 2019 levels.

Hawaii’s airports checked around 26,631 visitors on Monday, with more traffic expected as Hawaii moves into vacation on July 4th and travel restrictions on fully vaccinated domestic travelers are eased on July 8th.

Residents are also soaring to the skies to meet pent-up travel needs after more than a year of pandemic restrictions. For the week ending June 22nd, more than 30,000 passengers were screened daily at Hawaii‘s airports.

Maui Mayor Mike Victorino said at a press conference Tuesday that he wanted “a break”.

“We don’t have the authority to say stop, but we ask those in power to help us,” said Victorino. “We have to get a result to slow them down. I want to remind visitors that Maui is first and foremost a community and secondly a vacation destination. ”

Victorino said he met with airline executives to determine their willingness to voluntarily reduce the airlift to Kahului Airport. In May, 243,702 seats came to Maui – a 6% increase from the 229,284 seats offered in May 2019.

“I’ve spoken to a number of airlines. Many of them were very understanding, ”he said. “Some of them thought we shouldn’t be discussing airlifts.”

Hawaiian Airlines spokesman Alex Da Silva said in a statement that the airline looks forward to continuing to work with Victorino and other executives to find solutions to the challenges affecting Hawaii’s airports and communities.

“As Hawaii’s home airline, we live and work here, and we are aware of the strain on our infrastructure, natural resources and communities from a recovery in visitor arrivals, especially when companies are still facing operating restrictions related to COVID-19,” Da Silva said. “But we know that visitors are also the engine of our economic recovery and future diversification.”

Victorino said Tuesday he recently met with state officials to discuss the congestion at the gates at Kahului Airport, which he believes are overcapacity.

Da Silva said Hawaiian is aware of the capacity constraints at Kahului Airport and meets regularly with the state and TSA to discuss ways to improve the travel experience for residents and visitors.

In 2019, Hawaiian completed a multi-million dollar renovation and redesign of its lobbies to incorporate additional and faster check-in kiosks at Kahului, Honolulu, Lihue, Hilo and Kona airports.

Victorino said, “People don’t choose Hawaii just because of the wonderful resources and people, but because there really aren’t many options.”

“It’s not my problem. It’s not just my county problem. It’s a state problem,” he said.

Victorino said he wanted to mitigate the effects of tourism on his island such as traffic congestion and illegal parking. He said he posted more signs at hotspots like Hana Highway, where enforcing park violations has drained police resources.

Victorino said he is considering proposals ranging from introducing fees for visitor charges when it is legal to closing some county parks once a week to give staff time for cleaning and maintenance.

Victorino’s remarks followed a report by the Hawaii Tourism Authority that May visitor arrivals and spending were only 20% below the same month of 2019, which was a record year.

In May, the state welcomed 629,681 visitors, who spent $ 1.10 billion, according to statistics released Tuesday by the HTA. Last month’s arrivals were roughly 26% below the 847,396 visitors who came to Hawaii in May 2019, and their spend was 22% below the $ 1.41 billion generated in May 2019.

Around 418,956 visitors came from the west of the USA, or 8% more than in May 2019. Around 193,501 visitors came from the east of the USA, which corresponds to a decrease of around 3% compared to May 2019.

But the international market still has a long way to go. Only 2,733 international visitors came to Hawaii in May.

Delays in international arrivals contributed to differences in performance on the islands. Maui and the island of Hawaii, which are most dependent on North American visitors, exceeded visitor spending levels in May 2019 and came close to the average daily visitor count.

National tourism hasn’t quite returned to 2019 levels, but to some it may appear like it’s back. Part of the reason for this is because the current level represents a turnaround after the pandemic slump, when Hawaii’s visitor industry closed almost entirely.

Capacity constraints and bottlenecks in deliveries and labor have meant that some hot spots are also more heavily burdened by fewer tourists.

The situation left a lot to be desired for some residents and some visitors. The percentage of residents who think tourism has brought more benefits than problems was 53% in the HTA Resident Sentiment Survey in 2021, the lowest level ever.

Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association President and CEO Mufi Hannemann said now is not the time to ask airlines or visitors to skip Hawaii, which is still recovering from the pandemic lows.

“I’d rather deal with the kind of problems we face rather than close with no hope and lots of hungry and homeless people,” he said. “We have to move forward. Shutting down is not the way to go. We just have to learn to deal with it better. “

In Kauai, officials want to investigate parking lots in crowded beach parks and investigate the possibility of charging tourist vehicles.

Kauai has allocated $ 30,000 of the county’s state coronavirus aid to investigate parking at Poipu, Lydgate and Hanalei Black Pot beach parks, The Garden Island reported Monday.

Espacio, the jewel of Waikiki that reopened June 1, has focused new offerings on an authentic and regenerative visitor experience, said Theresa van Greunen, spokeswoman for Aqua-Aston Hospitality.

“We are currently working with Shiseido to provide our guests with reef-safe sun protection. We also recently partnered with Iolani Palace to offer our guests a behind-the-scenes tour and the opportunity to learn more about Hawaiian history and culture, ”said van Greunen. “We also offer our guests free access to the Bishop Museum and the Honolulu Museum of Art – which facilitates access to a rich cultural experience and educational opportunity.”

Offering guest suites with daily rates between $ 4,000 and $ 11,000, the luxury hotel strives to educate its guests about the challenges of Hawaii while ensuring they have a five-star stay.

“Communicating with guests about what to expect and how to plan ahead is key, and flexibility with reservation changes is now more of an expectation than a plus,” said van Greunen.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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