Op-Ed on Visitor Accommodations: Maui Needs Management Not Moratoriums
* Updated August 8, 9:07 AM
Pamela Tumpap, President, Maui Chamber of Commerce
Rod Antone, Executive Director, Maui Hotel & Lodging Association
(Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021)
After the pandemic shuttered Maui’s tourism industry, the local families and businesses we represent experienced firsthand the devastating impacts that rippled across our economy. Maui County went from one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation to one of the highest.
Businesses closed and never reopened their doors. Many families and local companies are still struggling to recover, even as tourism has returned faster than expected.
The big swings in visitor arrivals have caused some to voice concerns about how tourism is impacting Maui residents. We hear and understand those concerns which come from reaching the industry goals sooner than expected.
Yet, while Maui has seen a huge increase in the number of visitors lately, we still have approximately the same number of hotel rooms that we had 25 years ago.
Unfortunately, a majority of the County Council has responded with moratoriums on new visitor accommodations rather than responsible management plans and investments for the future. We understand why Maui residents want to address the impacts they are feeling today, but the moratorium won’t provide any immediate relief as projects take many years to develop.
We recently wrote to the Council on behalf of 111 organizations and individuals from Maui who oppose the moratorium because they are concerned this policy could end up hurting the local families we are trying to help.
We also offered our clear commitment to work with the Council to understand and address the root causes of some residents’ concerns about tourism. However, we cannot support the Council’s efforts to rapidly advance this measure which is unlikely to accomplish either objective.
We applaud Mayor Victorino’s leadership in vetoing Councilmember Kelly King’s moratorium proposal. He correctly noted that pausing visitor accommodation development in South and West Maui will not stop – or even limit – visitors from flying to Maui. It only limits places they can stay. So, tourists will keep coming, and as they do, we will be pushing them to stay in residential neighborhoods that were never intended for visitors.
We welcome the opportunity to work together with Mayor Victorino and the Council to rebalance and reimagine Maui’s relationship with tourism. But we believe that is possible without passing a moratorium that would jeopardize Maui’s fragile economic recovery and hurt local families who depend on a paycheck from a job in hospitality, construction, or a skilled trade, or operate a business that directly or indirectly benefits from visitors.
We encourage the County to continue taking strong and swift action against illegal rentals and prioritizing responsible hotel development in areas intended for tourism. New projects in resort areas, like parts of South and West Maui, fund new infrastructure and initiatives that benefit the surrounding communities and the visitors they serve – from workforce housing to new bike paths, roads, street lights, water and sewer lines, and replenishing beloved beaches.
Councilmembers would also be well served by the convening of an advisory committee made up of the hospitality industry, local businesses, nonprofits and residents who can help develop the management plans and mitigation measures we need for a rebalanced and sustainable tourism future.
The Council should respect Mayor Victorino’s veto of the legally-flawed Bill 60, and move forward with plans to achieve a sustainable tourism future where the impacts of visitors are minimized through thoughtful planning and action, and the benefits of the hospitality industry are maximized for local communities and families.
Pamela Tumpap is President of the Maui Chamber of Commerce and Rod Antone is Executive
Director of the Maui Hotel & Lodging Association
*****Views expressed in Op-Ed pieces are those of the author’s alone and do not reflect or represent the opinions, policies or positions of Maui Now.*****
Note: Since this Op-Ed was submitted, the Maui County Council decided to refer Bill 60 to the Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee.