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What pandemic? A huge influx in visitors has some considering ways to rein tourism in

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 3:39 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 30, 2021 at 5:20 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A “perfect storm.”

That’s how the governor is describing the huge influx of visitors to the islands ― a surge he attributes to pent-up demand and fewer destination options open to domestic travelers.

On Tuesday, roughly 32,000 people arrived in the islands, which is at pre-pandemic tourism levels.

That number will come to no surprise to most on Oahu.

Waikiki is wall-to-wall with vacationing visitors, lounging in paradise and taking up virtually every inch of sand. And restaurants, hotels and popular spots are bursting at the seams.

The situation is prompting some to call for a change.

Bruce Fisher, who runs Hawaii Aloha Travel, said many travelers to Hawaii are coming to the islands on a budget ― looking for a quick getaway ― and may rub residents the wrong way.

“We are attracting visitors that really don’t understand what’s happening here with regard to our destination. They are uneducated,” he said.

He worries about negative perceptions.

“They expect to have the same activities open, the same restaurants open, everything the way it was before the pandemic,” said Fisher.

Groups calling for a more “sustainable” tourism are planning to make their voices heard July Fourth by driving around all state airports.

“The airport is basically a funnel of our problems,” said Daniel Anthony, of Hui Aloha Aina Momona.

“The 30,000 people a day that are coming here that have no idea what they are coming to and don’t really care to listen.”

Meanwhile, Maui Mayor Mike Victorino says he’s asked the airlines to voluntarily reduce the number of planes flying to Hawaii after seeing tourists flood Kahului airport.

“We are asking for just a pause if you want to use that term. We don’t have the authority to say stop, but we’re asking the powers at be to help us,” said Victorino.

“I just came back from Oahu and it’s over capacity. There are wall-to-wall people,” he added.

Gov. David Ige told Hawaii News Now this week that he has talked to the FAA and confirmed the state cannot restrict aircraft.

“We are at 120% of pre-pandemic seats coming to Hawaii from North America,” he added.

He sympathizes with Victorino’s approach, but adds that the bubble will burst. He expects visitor levels to go back to normal after the summer.

The governor also said he’s leaning on the Hawaii Tourism Authority to focus on better management and that the state is trying to crack down on illegal vacation rentals.

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