PUHI — The Community Advisory Committee on Monday discussed ways to limit the growth of tourism to let the island’s infrastructure catch up.
“The tourists aren’t the problem, they’re floating our ship,” said committee member Kurt Bosshard. “The problem is the infrastructure.”
Carl Imparato, who was sitting in on the committee for Barbara Robeson, said he’s not opposed to tourists either, but he said there needs to be a balance between tourists and residents. The CAC is updating Kauai’s general plan.
“It’s a question of character,” Imparato said. “On the North Shore, when you have more visitors than residents, you lose character.”
Imparato reminded the committee that in 2008, voters wanted to limit tourism. He said there’s a projected increase of more than 30 percent in tourism activity between 2010 and 2035.
“There are ways to dissuade people from coming here as well,” Imparato said.
But that could have unintended effects.
“The North Shore is inundated right now and it’s not fair and I get it,” said Sue Kanoho, committee member and executive director of the Kauai Visitor’s Bureau. “But if you guys wanted me to stop marketing today, you’d feel the affect of that.”
The big catch to limiting tourism is that Kauai’s economy depends on it.
“Anything that we do to impact tourism will impact our economy,” said committee member Luke Evslin. “One short-term solution is saying tourism can grow, but limiting it.”
Evslin suggested promoting tourism in the off-months could help while infrastructure is improved.
Shuttles, buses and public transit are other pieces to balancing infrastructure and visitor numbers.
Evslin suggested a concentration of improving the bus and shuttle system and equipping tourists with multi-day bus passes.
JoAnn Yukimura, in the public comment section of Monday’s community advisory committee meeting, advocated bus and shuttle improvements as well.
“Create convenient and reliable transportation and create resort destinations where they don’t need cars,” Yukimura said.
Kauai resident Ken Taylor said he would like to see a better bus system.
“Ban rental cars for the most part and become a unique visitor destination where the shuttles and busses (are the primary transportation mode),” Taylor said.
Kanoho reminded the committee, however, that switching visitors’ main mode of transportation wouldn’t be easy.
“It’s a mindset,” Kanoho said. “The mindset is it’s too much hassle to do the shuttle. This isn’t going to happen overnight.”
The other catch to limiting tourism on Kauai is that there isn’t another industry that can fill in the gap.
“Tourism is the primary industry, what else is going to replace it?” asked committee member Tom Shigemoto.
Agriculture is one idea, but some members of the committee thought it wasn’t realistic.
“When it comes down to it, there aren’t a lot of people who want to farm,” Kanoho said.
Yukimura, however, said job creation is simply about filling in gaps and finding solutions to problems. She listed energy jobs and import substitution as two options.
“Look for the problems,” Yukimura said. “Where there’s problems, there can be jobs.”
The subject will be on the table at Ha Coffee at 2:30 today for an after-meeting discussion that’s more in-depth. Members of the committee will be available, and members of the public are welcome.