A ‘visitor impact fee’? East Maui councilmember proposes it to address tourism flood

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Published: Jun. 21, 2021 at 6:16 PM HST
KEANAE (HawaiiNewsNow) – Keanae, an old Hawaiian village in east Maui off the Road to Hana, was once considered a hidden gem. But now, it is a must-see stop for countless visitors.

“Our summers are normally super busy, pre-pandemic. But now it’s like double. A little bit too much. We needed that money, the income, because we lost it during the whole year of shutdown. But it’s a little bit too much right now,” said Healoha Carmichael.

Carmichael was born and raised in Keanae and has worked at Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread stand for years. She says the influx in visitors this summer is taking a toll on their roads, limited number of public restrooms, and livelihoods.

“We had to make signs saying, ‘This is a street, please do not park here’ and put cones in front of people’s driveways because they just block and it’s frustrating for the taro farmers, they’re trying to go into the farm,” Carmichael said.

Although Carmichael is happy to be back at work, she and many other residents are begging lawmakers to help them find a balance.

“Our small community is at capacity,” councilman for east Maui Shane Sinenci.

Sinenci is suggesting a “visitor impact fee.”

He said other places do it, so why not Hawaii?

“Places like the Galapagos, it’s expensive to get there,” Sinenci said. “You would have to pay … impact fees if you’re visiting the Galapagos.”

Sinenci said it could be tacked on to every airline and cruise line ticket. He said locals would be exempt.

He said the goal is to create a higher level of respect among those traveling to the islands.

“Make it more expensive to visit would give us maybe a … visitor that would be more appreciative,” he said.

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