Many locals and policy makers alike from Maui–the second largest Hawaiian island are concerned about the return of over-tourism and have decided to take actionable steps to tackle the problem.
The Maui City Council voted as recently as last Friday (22/04) to send a proposed bill to the Maui County Planning Commission. Their solution is to cap the number of visitors and to totally ban the short-term camper vans widely used across Hawaii. It was approved by 6 against 3.
This doesn’t mean it will come into effect immediately. The voting allows for the proposal to be sent to a greater court for analysis and discussion further in the future. As some lawmakers have mentioned, this is a long debate, as tourism is one of the main economic engines of Maui, and the proposal faces some disagreement about how over-tourism should be handled.
Over-tourism is a great concern for Maui. Locals are constantly facing long traffic congestion, shortage of water, and increasing prices on food and housing among other discomforts. Especially now that masks are no longer required at the airports nor public transportation, meaning that almost all covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, the prospect that tourists will start flocking back to the island is worrying local residents.
Maui is bracing itself for another busy summer season, which tends to be exceptionally crowded. Locals are even taking it to social media to urge people not to come to Maui. Although tourism contributes to the vast majority of the islands economy, with the Maui Economic Development Board claiming that 80% of every dollar comes directly or indirectly from the tourism industry, it does not come without its own consequences, from inflation in prices to gentrification of the housing market and environmental concerns.
But this is not just a problem that concerns Maui alone, which is Hawaii’s second most visited island. House overpricing is already a problem across all islands, even Honolulu (capital of Oahu) passing a bill to extend the minimum stay from 30 to 90 days for rental.
Furthermore, Hawaii has now become the most expensive state to live in 2022. Islands are already expensive due to long-distance transportation of goods, as well as lack of resources. An already existing problem is now a massive one, making Hawaii a luxury destination and automatically imposing a very high premium for locals to survive.
The progressively growing tourism industry which was already raising the eyebrows regarding the consumption of resources came to a pause during the pandemic which saw Hawaii become the state which handled Public Health the best. However, the state also ranked last for economic well-being in COVID policy analysis. Now that it appears we seem to have put the pandemic behind and tourism is picking pace, it is paramount that the island balances economy with sustainability.
It is not by chance that Maui receives the number of tourists it does. It’s famous for its astonishing landscape: From the sacred Iao Valley to the beautiful dormant volcano of Haleakala and its national park, spectacular beaches all across the island with magnificent sunrises and sunsets and its famous farm-to-table cuisine. The list goes on and on as Maui is cited as one of the most beautiful islands in the whole world.
These are only a few reasons to visit Maui, but one should always approach it with the utmost respect. Over-tourism is something that happens all around the world, and for a small island full of wonders, it’s just predictable that tourists will be flocking. Especially with its exotic nature in relation, and its proximity, to the continental United States. But remember it all comes with a price, you should be as careful as possible with the locals, preserving local cultures, heritages, traditions, and environment.
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