'Glamping,' a growing draw for tourists, prompts calls for greater oversight

'Glamping,' a growing draw for tourists, prompts calls for greater oversight

WAIMANALO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's called "glamping" -- or glamorous camping -- and it's a growing draw for Hawaii visitors.

Online accomodations website Airbnb features a host of glamping ads. One offers a huge tent for rent at a beach park in Waimanalo for $59 a night.

But this isn't just any camping experience.

Instead of roughing it near the sand and surf, campers are promised a queen-sized airbed, sheets and pillows and all the trappings of a comfortable stay.

"It's fancy camping," beachgoer Bianca Serna said.

Airbnb advertises glamping rentals that run the spectrum, from a spot on a beach to a space in a park.

They're growing in popularity for visitors, industry experts say. And many of them are illegal.

"They are breaking the laws because in most of the counties in the state, you're not allowed to go and get a camping permit and then turn around and sell it," state Sen. Laura Thielen said.

Thielen said glamp outfits commercialize public recreational spaces.

So she's working on a measure that would require Airbnb to verify glamp offers they post.

"So, in other words, they'd have to go the county and say, 'Is it legal for them to be selling these campsites?' And the answers going to be. 'No.' If that's the case, they would not be able to post it," she said.

Airbnb lists glamp rentals for parks and beach areas all over the state.

"It's a market like everything else," beachgoer Roy Phelps said. "If there's money in it, somebody's going to do it."

Waimanalo is popular for glamping because of its top beach rating. Glamp outfits set up the tent and tell customers they have access to bathrooms and showers.

Waimanalo Neighborhood Board Chairman Wilson Kekoa Ho said there are several problems with renting those spaces to campers, not least of which is safety.

"Who's determining the safety of these people? They're at the beach, isolated by themselves. If they set everything up and then they're gone, who's to protect these people?" he said.

Thielen said her measure, moving through the Legislature is an attempt to tackle a market that's incredibly tough to regulate.

"What our staff is finding is they're shutting down that one offer. But then they're re-opening up under a different name with the exact same information," she said.

Airbnb is quoted as saying listings that offer camping on Hawaii's public lands violate the standards Airbnb has for its hosts.

Thielen said if that's the case, Airbnb needs to shut down those listings.

"People are willing to commercialize our public lands. It's not fair. It's not right," she said.

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