By Kevin Wilkerson, PubClub.com Travel Blogger
Hawaii. Ahh, the land of beaches, Mai Tais and tropical breezes.
It is indeed a paradise but an expensive one and it may get even more costly. Hawaii Gov. Josh Green proposed a $25 tourist fee for people visiting the state in his annual State of the State address. That’s some Aloha welcome.
Now on the surface, $25 to visit Hawaii doesn’t seem that bad; it’s the cost of two drinks at Duke’s Waikiki. And such a fee would not keep me from going to the Aloha State. But… Yes, there’s a “but” here. The fee would be added to your hotel bill and at a whopping 18%, Hawaii already has the highest hotel taxes in the nation. You’re also hit with a $5-a-day tax on a rental car. Also on the table is a $50 “Green Fee,” named not after the governor but because its intention would be to to offset the environmental impacts of tourism.
Those two taxes together would certainly make me hesitate going to Hawaii.
The governor said that a driving force behind the fee(s) is to curb overtourism. Okay, as someone who has been to Hawaii several times, overtourism is a concern. But governors and governments around the world have to be careful that they are not eventually eliminating the very people who made them prosperous in the first place. I am referring to the ordinary traveler who makes up the bulk of global tourism.
By adding fees, increasing occupancy taxes and other expenses, they run the risk of outpricing the themselves. The ordinary traveler would simply not be able to afford to go there and would look elsewhere to go on vacations. All that’s left would be elite travelers and that would have a huge impact on the tourism economy and eliminate tourism jobs on which many locals depend.
Fewer visitors would also result in fewer tax dollars, thereby defeating the very purpose higher taxes and fees were created to do in the first place.
Kevin Wilkerson is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in daily newspapers and for the Associated Press. He has been to Hawaii several times.