Those million visitors are not guests

In the Sunday edition of TGI, a feel good piece called “Take pride in those million visitors,” appeared. Somehow it didn’t make me feel good at all. It told the reader about steady increases in “guests” that Kauai has “welcomed.” The visitors were called guests as if we are so happy to be on tourism overload, that we are paying them to stay with us. They are actually paying customers not “guests.”

Because they are paying to spend their hard earned vacations with us, I do hope they have a nice time.

But where does this steady increase in tourist traffic end? The article did not comment on anything like, how much is too much, or any kind of sustainability, just that Kauai depends on tourism.

A shoutout went to the airlines for “doing their part” (crowding us out) by bringing in even more people with more direct flights. It goes on to say, yes we have more traffic but do not blame the Hawaiian Tourism Authority for doing their job, promoting Hawaii “to attract people to come here.”

Instead of this happy talk, why don’t we get an article about why the HTA keeps spending TAT revenue to attract more tourism? The HTA is a government entity of the state. We are the people of the state. It’s our agency and we are entitled to know why it’s on this unsustainable path.

The article goes on to say that if the HTA and the KVB were disbanded tomorrow, “it wouldn’t matter.” People would still come here.” Exactly. So why is expensive promotion still taking place? Why isn’t that TAT promotion money going back to the counties to repair the roads, parks and trails from all this increased wear and tear?

We may be facing tax increases next year to make those repairs, because Kauai County does not have enough revenue to keep up with so many people roaming the island and loving it to death.

I am not advocating a reduction in the visitor count (though it might be a good idea) I am simply asking, why do we want to continue increasing the visitor count, in this unsustainable, never ending way?

Many of us do not agree steady increases in visitor numbers is “a good thing” as the article tells us it is. Where will it end? Where is the sustainability in blindly pandering to the tourist industry? Will we need to bring in off island tourism workers, to handle these increases? Will we need more resorts? Will we need more rental cars, more gas stations, more everything?

Will our infrastructure be brought up to current demand? No, the infrastructure stays the way it is according to the General Plan Update. Everything else increases due to the increase in visitors but not the infrastructure. It just gets a few tweaks.

Will the constant flow of TAT funds ever be reversed away from promoting Hawaii, to paying for wider roads, fixing our potholes and structurally deficient bridges? Will we ever get an in-depth article about the amount of money the HTA spends on advertising and the reason why George D Szigeti, CEO of the HTA, insists the more visitors, the more the counties benefit in tax revenue? The visitor tax is not enough to take care of their heavy use on Kauai due to so much of it going to the HTA. Why then are we told these things? If I never hear another word from George D Szigeti it will be too soon.

When we get a day off, will we be able recreate on our own island without fighting even greater crowds? Are we having fun yet? Who cares? As long as the visitors do. As long as George D. Szigeti and others are making money, that is all that matters. Our Garden Island news tells us to be proud about it.

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Paulo Tambolo is a resident of Wailua Homesteads.

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