Throughout 2019, greater than 3 million guests got here to Maui County. Final yr, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and tourism arrivals dropped beneath 800,000. The dip in tourism starved our financial system, however we managed to outlive. One surprising present from the pandemic was a wanted break from tourism.
Now Maui County has an unprecedented alternative to reset tourism in ways in which profit our individuals and surroundings. Most of us agree that Maui County can have tourism, however tourism can’t have Maui County. That is our residence, not a theme park. We’re becoming a member of many different locations in in search of a kinder, gentler and extra balanced hospitality business.
Venice, Italy, is without doubt one of the world’s most over-visited locations. Previous to the pandemic, this historic metropolis welcomed about 25 million guests a yr. To offer context, Venice is about 160 sq. miles in comparison with Maui Island’s 727 sq. miles.
Whereas tourism grew unchecked, Venetians discovered themselves priced out of their very own hometown as transient trip leases killed off residential housing like most cancers. So it’s not shocking that in 2016, residents revolted by posting anti-Airbnb leaflets round their metropolis to induce vacationers to boycott TVRs. Dublin, Barcelona and the Greek island of Santorini have since joined the anti-vacation rental motion that’s constructing momentum worldwide.
Like Maui, Venice loved a break from tourism in the course of the pandemic. It satisfied the locals to not permit tourism to return in the identical approach. Venice officers are actually rethinking their total system of tourism administration. In accordance with Paola Mar, the town’s councilor for tourism, a part of their plan is to lure locals again to stay within the metropolis completely.
The mayor of Venice is in discussions about repurposing trip leases as college scholar and workforce housing, and historic buildings are actually being restored as residential housing. Efforts to restrict tourism numbers — together with a brand new hefty tax on day guests — is anticipated to start this summer season.
Earlier this month, a whole bunch of Venetians took to the streets to protest the arrival of the primary cruise ship because the pandemic closed the town’s harbor. A counterprotest was organized by 1000’s of employees who rely on tourism for his or her livelihoods who’ve been unemployed because the pandemic hit final spring.
Nearer to residence, when Maui tourism roared again, our beloved street to Hana was overrun by vacationers stopping and parking anyplace they might discover. Heeding the irresponsible recommendation of guidebooks, they frequently trespass on non-public property; take selfies at each waterfall, pond or pure function; and hinder residents and others alongside the best way. Not too long ago the state Division of Transportation put in a number of indicators warning of upper fines for unlawful stopping on Hana Freeway.
I spoke with MPD about beefing up enforcement and as of June 1, officers have issued 387 parking citations alongside Hana Freeway. On the identical time, MPD wants no less than 90 new recruits to fill a long-standing officer scarcity. A selection have to be made between enforcement of great crime or tagging illegally parked rental automobiles.
I’ve additionally spoken with the governor about proscribing entry, however as a result of Hana Freeway was constructed with federal funds, this isn’t an choice. And as a lot as I’d like to tow each illegally parked automobile, the protection issues of teams of individuals with out transportation in areas of spotty cellphone service have to be thought-about.
I’m contemplating supplementing regulation enforcement officers with a brand new class of parking enforcement officers or deploying county park rangers to subject parking violations. Nevertheless, such modifications would require an settlement with the State of Hawaii Group of Police Officers and/or United Public Staff and a brand new funds allocation, so it gained’t occur in a single day. I’m additionally speaking to state legislators to find out what assist the State of Hawaii can provide.
The neighborhood’s want for quick change requires a fast response if doable whereas contemplating all choices. Diversifying our financial system to minimize Maui County’s overdependence upon tourism will take time. Constructing an everlasting, diversified financial system would require resolve and endurance. Fortuitously, the pandemic has taught us that Maui County can accomplish something with willpower and unity.
* “Our County,” a column from Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino, discusses county points and actions of county authorities.