Influx of tourism spurs concerns about future of Kailua
KAILUA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii tourism officials estimate that more than four million people visited Oahu between January and September, up from the same time last year.
And more of those people may be headed to Kailua.
"I know a lot more people from Japan routinely come in," said longtime Kailua resident Steve Kofsky. "There's more bike rental places here. There's electric bikes now. And the farmers market brings a lot of people."
They've been drawn to Kailua by the beaches and the scenery, along with President Obama's annual holiday vacations in the quiet community.
There are no specific visitor numbers for the area. But for some, it's a bit too much and they worry that Kailua may be turning into another Haleiwa.
There's already a bumper sticker spotted that reads, "Go Back to Waikiki. Save Kailua Culture."
"I'm so happy that the tourists have a good day. I feel terrible if it's like raining out. But they've overrun the place," said another longtime resident, William Gladstone.
One post on the My Kailua Facebook page described the situation as putting "10 gallons of people in a five gallon town."
"Have you driven around any day? The crowds in Lanikai and Kailua Beach? It's terrible," Gladstone said. "It's horrible. We've lost the feeling and the charm."
There have also been more complaints and photos on the My Kailua page about tour buses bringing in visitors, who then roam through residential neighborhoods, or who sometimes clog the two lane streets on rented bikes.
"I worry about the tourists on bicycles not really paying much attention to traffic and all that, because everybody's looking around," said Kofsky.
But for local businesses, like Crepes No Ka Oi, the visitors are a lifeline.
"We employ a lot of local kids, and with that alone if we get more sales, we are able to provide more for them," said restaurant owner Kakay Tarvyd. She said two years ago they moved to a larger space for their restaurant, which often has a waiting list at its peak time.
The Kailua Chamber of Commerce has promoted the area and says Kailua is no longer a bedroom community. The chamber also says the tourists should be welcomed, but it's also trying to find a balance.
"We may have several buses come throughout the day, but on the other hand there are many more visitors that are renting cars," said chamber vice president Catherine Sato. "So at the end of the day, would you rather have a few buses, or would you rather have a few hundred vehicles?"
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