Aiona and Green want to tame overtourism, but they don’t agree on how to do it

The two also said pre-kindergarten should be offered for free in Hawaii.
Published: Oct. 13, 2022 at 1:41 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 13, 2022 at 6:46 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When residents of Waipio Valley blockaded the public road into the valley, it was just the latest conflict between tourists wanting to see Hawaii’s precious places and residents who feel overrun.

Republican Duke Aiona says he gets it.

“They were concerned with, that there wasn’t enough education, for their, for the tourists to understand, you know, what that value was all about, and where it is now,” Aiona said.

While both candidates support user fees for access to popular sites, Green goes further with a $50 fee on every visitor, exempting only toddlers and residents.


“The important thing is you can get fees from travelers because what you want to do is simultaneously raise monies to deal with climate change, the infrastructure we need, parks, even green energy programs,” Green said.

He also says he thinks a significant fee would actually discourage lower-spending visitors from coming.

“And at the same time, you want to slightly decrease the total number of people that are traveling here for very inexpensive vacations.”

[SPECIAL SECTION: Election 2022]

At $50 per person, the fee could raise hundreds of millions a year.

But Aiona says it will do more harm than good.

“That’s a ridiculous tax, he’s calling it a fee, but it’s a tax,” Aiona said. “We can’t keep taxing our tourists because they are gonna vote, they’re gonna vote with their feet.”

Aiona said visitors already complaining about fees that he said can exceed the cost of their accommodations, and that competing destinations will use Hawaii’s fees to show themselves as more welcoming.

Amid all their disagreements, the two candidates actually agree that Hawaii should dramatically expand the public school system by offering pre-kindergarten to every family.

“I’m very supportive of early education,” Green said. “Now, having said that, it’s $200 million just to build the classrooms. The next step is going to actually be a plan to support the 18,000 keiki per year that are three years old and 18,000 keiki per year that are four years old to go into public education.”

Aiona says he also supports pre-K in public schools, but isn’t’ ready to give the Department of Education a blank check.. “I have always called for an independent financial audit, and management audit of the DOE (Department of Education). I really believe we have enough money in there. And if we don’t, we augment,” Aiona said.

But unlike K-12 education, which is mandatory in Hawaii, Aiona isn’t sure about requiring pre-K.

“Whether or not I’d be mandatory, I’m not sure because a lot of parents are not interested in their children going to a public preschool.”