How Hawaii Is Tackling Over-Tourism After A Year Without Visitors

The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) recently published their 2020-2025 Oahu Destination Management Action Plan, a guide to rebuilding, redefining, and resetting the direction of tourism on Oahu amid a post-pandemic boom where local residents were begging tourists not to come to Hawaii due to “over-tourism”.

Appreciating Hawaii’s natural beauty, safely and with respect.

In the summer of 2021, over 791,000 people arrived by plane to the Hawaiian islands. Many did not follow quarantine mandates, and some even faked their vaccination records. As soon as the restrictions for travel were lifted, a circus ensued as every single local hiking spot and beach became overwhelmed with tourists who were non-familiar with the Native Hawaiian culture and more importantly how to appreciate Hawaii’s natural beauty, safely and with respect.

HTA’s work toward “Malama Kuu Home” (caring for my beloved home) is underway to manage tourism in a regenerative manner. Developed by an Oahu-based steering committee comprised of residents, businesses, non-profits, and community leaders; input was provided with the following recommendations to implement starting 2022:

  • Decrease the total number of visitors to Oahu to a manageable level by controlling the number of visitor accommodations and exploring changes to land use, zoning and airport policies.
  • Implement a pre-and post-arrival tourism communications program to encourage respectful and supportive behavior.
  • Identify sites and implement stewardship plans for critical hotspots on Oahu.
  • Increase enforcement and active management of sites and trails.
  • Develop a reservation system to monitor and manage users at natural resource and cultural sites.
  • Establish a “Regenerative Tourism Fee” that directly supports programs to regenerate Hawaii’s resources, protect natural resources, and address unfunded conservation liabilities.
  • Develop and implement marketing programs to attract positive-impact travelers who prioritize the environment, culture and invest in our local community.
  • Continue to develop and implement “Buy Local” programs to promote the purchase of local products and services to keep funds in our communities and minimize carbon footprint.
  • Manage the visitors’ use of cars as transportation on Oahu.
  • Work with community partners to develop, market, encourage, and support more collaborative, curated experiences that enrich residents and visitors alike.

The goal of HTA is to promote “Responsible Tourism, to make Hawaii a better place for people to live in and a better place for people to visit.

Papahana Kuaola
Our ʻāina is full of wonderful plants and flowers

“Oahu is a special place and stands out from anywhere else thanks to its natural beauty and its remarkable people. By working together as a community to care for our resources, we create an environment where our culture, land and water, economy, and relationships can thrive,” said Mayor Rick Blangiardi. 

This Call to Action over the next 4 years aims to honor the legacy of Native Hawaiian culture and knowledge. I am hopeful this refreshed focus will help future visitors to Hawaii learn the spirit of aloha so we can continuously focus on improving the sustainability of our island resources for future generations.

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