Hawaiian lawmakers are pushing to create fees for people to enter the state, plus additional fees to enter state parks to combat damage caused by negligent and inconsiderate tourists.
One of the top tourist destinations in the world, the little island state of Hawaii is home to beautiful beaches, a lush tropical climate, and stunning mountains. All those tourists have taken a toll on the island’s environment and economy, though, with more and more local resources being allocated to cleaning up after careless or uniformed tourists. As Hawaii’s tourism industry grows, so do the environmental costs, which is why Hawaii lawmakers are now considering legislation that would require tourists to pay for licenses or passes to visit state parks.
While local and native Hawaiians have been encouraging tourists not to visit Hawaii for years, citing the economic and environmental harm tourists do to their home, lawmakers have been more reticent to curb Hawaii’s lucrative tourism industry. Last year, the governor of Hawaii led his campaign with the platform of charging tourists a $50 fee to enter the state. Some legislators argue that a law like this would violate constitutional protections for free travel within the country, instead making a case for fees to visit state parks and trails. Regardless, Hawaii would be the first U.S. state to create a policy like this.
Other popular tourist destinations around the world have similar taxes and fees; for example, the nation of Palau, also an island, charges visitors $100 upon entry to help fund the protection and preservation of its unique marine ecosystem. While Hawaii has always been a popular vacation spot, recent tourist trends lean more toward spending time off-the-beaten-path rather than at tried-and-true spots. Hawaii doesn’t currently have the funds to responsibly manage all the new places tourists are frequenting, which is one of the biggest reasons they’re looking to impose a tourist fee or tax.
According to NPR, the bill currently moving its way through Hawaii’s legislature would require tourists aged 15 or older to buy an annual license to visit any forests, parks, trails, or state land. Any violators would pay a civil fine, although penalties won’t be imposed until five years after the legislation passes, to allow time for both employees and tourists to be educated. The bill has already been passed through the Senate, which set the fee at $50, but the bill was later amended to leave the dollar amount open-ended, allowing some wiggle room for changing needs and prices.
Some tourists are frustrated by the extra expenses, arguing that for the average traveler, especially families, an extra few hundred dollars is a lot of money. However, Hawaii’s tourism industry also costs the state a lot of money in environmental protection and preservation measures. Hawaii has to deal with tourists harassing marine wildlife like turtles, dolphins, and Hawaiian monk seals, drive out invasive species brought by hikers, and restore coral reefs from careless interaction.
Though your visit to Hawaii might cost a little bit more in the future, it’s still a stunning place to visit, and it’s well worth the extra money to keep Hawaii’s beautiful environment healthy and pristine. The proposed legislation is not expected to have any significant impact on tourism numbers but will have a very significant impact on Hawaii’s ability to mitigate tourism’s impact on its environment. The new legislation will help Hawaii stay beautiful for generations to come!