Too many tourists – a blessing or a curse?

During the past two months we could read reports and even editorials about the high revenues resulting from the increased visitor counts on our island. The predictions call even for more visitors this year and the next. While the visitors spend their money for the benefit of our island we will have some consequences too. New developments, more traffic, more new settlers, and a more urbanized lifestyle. These are the consequences that most of our island residents don’t want.

Apart from the job opportunities the problem is that only a small circle of residents or investors will enjoy the tourism-generated benefits and a large number of residents will pay for it by losing the once-preferred laid-back island lifestyle. Back-to-back traffic and serious congestion on the roads, which is now almost everywhere, not just in the Kapaa corridor.

It is best not even to talk about the condition of most of the roads that are being constantly patched over and over instead of being repaired for good. No parking space at our North Shore beaches. Neglected county parks that are below all standards. Illegal vacation rentals by the hundreds. Due to Kauai’s popularity the real estate prices have escalated so high that young local families can’t even dream about buying a house.

The reasons have been spelled out too many times by the public: very high number of rental cars on the roads, no alternative roads on the island, too many tourists, too many new settlers who want to change the island to what they were escaping from, plus over-development.

The local people see the seriousness of the issue and let their voices heard in The Garden Island and in form of testimonies at public meetings and the weekly sessions of the County Council. The County Council acknowledged the problems. However, their reaction does not prove their intent to remedy the causes with urgency.

Many people recommended to limit the number of rental cars on the island and add a rental surcharge earmarked for road maintenance. The answer was: we don’t have the power to do it. Another recommendation was to open the cane roads for local vehicles with four-wheel-drive and issue special permits for those who wish to travel on them.

No comments from the council. Limiting the number of visitors on the island by limiting the number of lodging places, especially the vacation rental properties. The county said that they don’t have the power.

It was also suggested to make an ordinance to require property owners to live on the island for at least one year before they apply for vacation rental permits and to live here during the permitted time to rent. No response to this proposal from the county either.

An ordinance was suggested by the public to impose high fines on illegal vacation rentals just like in Iceland. The county’s answer was that they don’t have the power to do it plus they don’t have the money for enforcement.

I have to stop here listing the county’s reactions or the lack thereof. Let’s try common sense. If they get a public suggestion and they find it unacceptable, tell the public the reason at least in one sentence, because if they don’t react, the public will think that they don’t give a damn about it.

If they don’t have the money to carry it out, tell that, too. But don’t just dismiss the idea without a statement. If they don’t have the power to implement the suggestion tell us who does and what action we, the residents of Kauai have to take to turn the idea into reality.

And please stop giving us lame answers like we don’t have the money for enforcement. Think out of the box! For example, let’s see this complex issue of reducing the available lodging by limiting the vacation rentals and wiping out the illegals. You introduce an ordinance to impose $10,000 fine for each violation for any illegal, unregistered rental place. I guess that will stop some illegals right there if a few of them are caught and publicized.

You hire two enforcement officers at an annual salary of $50,000 each. Your total costs for the two including their benefits and retirement fund will be $160,000 per year. If they issue fines for 16 violations per year you have already recovered their costs, but since we have hundreds of illegal vacation rentals on Kauai finding two violations per week will be easy. Thus, the fines for the 104 fines will bring in $1,040,000 revenue in one year.

So, your costs are covered, plus you have a high gain. The gain is exponential, because by reducing the number of lodging places you are not turning away visitors. If they plan to come here this year, but no place to stay, their desire to visit Kauai will remain, and they will make their reservation for later when lodging is still available. So, you are spreading out the occupancy and helping the entire island.

The same thing is with opening the cane roads for permitted vehicles. Collect fees for the special permits and for a special, highly visible license plate. Your costs are already covered. Fine the violators, of which there will be some definitely, and you are in the gain. Is it too hard to implement?

As it stands now, the updated General Plan is approved. S so the county has a vision for the next 20 years, and a backlog of projects not carried out during the past 20 years. In the meantime, the traffic is getting worse and the residents are losing their patience.

In summary, if the County Council does not comment or act upon, nor does it recommend a course of action for beneficial suggestions, it is ignorance, or a true sign of political impotence.

And if the County Council is impotent, it is up to the community to take things in their own hands and resort to actions that will remedy the ever-increasing problems within a reasonably short time with ingenious ways to lower the overflow of the visitors and new settlers to our island. Other communities in the world have done it with success. Yes, it can be done here, too, and it can be done with aloha. Watch for signs and watch the results!


János Keoni Samu is a resident of Kalaheo.

  1. Imua44 February 22, 2018 6:21 am Reply

    Another rant by a person who is out of touch with the young families. Tourism is here to as Kaui gets more rich newcomers with no ties to the island we will see these anti work ideas.
    We need work. We don t need off islanders telling us how for live. They have money and don’t need a job.

  2. RG DeSoto February 22, 2018 7:34 am Reply

    Janos…nothing like a good dose of administrative tyranny and state force to cure all our problems, right? Most of your “prescriptions” are fascist in nature…that is they nominally recognize private property & individual liberty but in practice subject us all to the will of the state (all governments). Love that jack-boot on the neck.
    RG DeSoto

  3. James February 22, 2018 7:46 am Reply

    Great letter with well thought out arguments to keep our Island from becoming like Honolulu. I believe there are already laws allowing for fines of $10,000 for illegal vacation rentals. The problem is lack of enforcement. Hiring additional staff and staff attorneys to aggressively pursue the collection of fines for illegal vacation rentals remains the correct approach to tamping down this problem. The County does have the power and right to do this so why aren’t they being more assertive? You’d think with the powerful hotel lobby behind closing down illegal vacation rentals they could solve this problem.

  4. Ted & Mary DeMarce February 22, 2018 8:27 am Reply

    As a visitor since 1962, I have seen a lot of changes. We do not stop at Honolulu, or go to Maui or the big island anymore, to many people. Kauai is becoming the next overrun place to visit. Please do not let the sound of money be your music to listen to. Listen to what the local people have to say. They are wonderful people now, but to many tourist and they can get upset, and the Aloha spirit will be gone…
    Makalo Ted & Mary—- Wenatchee, WA.

  5. Valerie Weiss February 22, 2018 9:14 am Reply

    Thank you János Keoni Samu and thank you Paulo Tambolo for not ignoring this problem. We cannot get near some of our favorite places anymore. There is no longer a shoulder season when we can relax and enjoy our own island. It’s been 2 years since I’ve made the drive from the east side to my favorite snorkeling spot at Tunnels. There is no place to park there except on the road, in the no parking zones. The visitors might be able to afford an expensive ticket for that but many residents cannot. Check out Poipu. It’s not peak season but all parking lots are on overflow and cars now park in the NO PARKING AT ANY TIME on both sides of Hoowili Rd, sometimes from the beach all the way back to Poipu Rd. Mr Tambolo has asked for something to be put on the general ballot to ask residents their opinion but maybe that can’t be done either. Also he requested that the HTA stop using funds to advertise us. Something does need to be.

  6. Legalize it February 22, 2018 11:45 am Reply

    Just legalize it. It will create local jobs, mellow out the populace, but most important it will provide a nice tax base to fix the darn roafs. Think about it.

  7. Tom Niblick February 22, 2018 12:01 pm Reply

    I agree 100%. But let’s take this two steps further. If council and mayor are impotent, vote out the good old boys. It is not “so and so’s turn next” to be our next mayor or council person. Those who represent us should represent us. They should have the best interest of the aina and the people and not the interests of the tourist industry. The second step is to elect council to represent a moku or district. They should be required to live in the district they represent. It is time for a change.

  8. Sue February 22, 2018 12:08 pm Reply

    The council obviously doesn’t work for us, they work for the Tourism Board, and for themselves. We need to vote them OUT the next election. They are trying to pass longer term limits, gee, I wonder why? They have a sweet thing going, and they want to stay as long as they can. People, we need to take the island back from tourists and the inept council. Vote them out of their seats.

  9. Tom Niblick February 22, 2018 12:20 pm Reply

    Why bother writing anything? You never post any comments.

  10. Martha February 22, 2018 12:39 pm Reply

    It’s funny to me how locals think that they own those islands, and that other people should be barred from entering or something. I’m moving to Maui late this year after my house is finished being built. My husband and three kids are also more excited than ever. We’ve worked hard for this and quite frankly aren’t too concerned about opinions of locals. You’ve had your chance, you’ve lived in paradise, now move if you aren’t happy with mainlanders coming and rising costs. Hawaii is a US State, you guys don’t mind getting US military protection, but yet whine and whine when hearing about mainlanders moving there. If it weren’t for the US, you guys would be speaking Japanese. Your ancestors weren’t there forever, even if they were you have no exclusive rights to the islands. I’ve gone through 40+ Montana winters and more excited than ever about finally getting a piece of what you’ve already had your whole lives (probably not even) and yet are STILL complaining about others enjoying. Every forum and group in which I read about living in Hawaii, it’s always the same thing, locals complaining about people moving there. You know what, if it’s too expensive move to the mainland and work a little and maybe if you work hard enough like everyone else has had to, you can then go back to paradise.

    1. GOBAG February 22, 2018 2:46 pm Reply

      With that kind of narcissistic attitude, we’re glad you are moving to Haole Maui.

    2. ConcreteIsland February 22, 2018 4:47 pm Reply

      Gosh, I normally don’t mind people moving here if they show respect, but you are a different story. You’re insulting people that grew up here their whole lives. They are complaining that it’s getting crowded and crappy, mainly because of people with your attitude. What if your little town in Montana had 1 million tourist a year that show you no respect and 50,000 new residents trying to change your town and telling you to beat it if you complained. You say they are acting like they own it and here you are, not even here yet, acting like you own it. Telling us we had our chance? Bad way to start your island life. You might have the right to live here by law, but with that train of thought, you will not be welcome by many. The islands have a way of rejecting people and I have a feeling you will be on that list. You have to come here with respect, not all cocky and insulting. Best of luck with your stink attitude. Sorry for my Maui Ohana, you get one more, but glad you’re not coming to Kauai.

      1. Jake February 25, 2018 8:00 am Reply

        Some day, I would like a succinct explanation, from someone that can form a complete sentence on Kauai, what exactly “respect” means in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?

        It’s like 4th grade recess on the islands. “I was here first!”, “I’ve lived here longer”, “I was born and raised here”. ……… Who cares? Are we supposed to bow to you, and say “Thank you for letting me move here”??

        This is not the only island on the planet. It’s the 21st century….people are transient. Only here, people demand this archaic “respect”, and demand this sophomoric credibility because they have lived here longer. What an absolute joke. Try that anywhere else on the planet and people just laugh in your face….”Who Cares”!!

        I’ve moved over a dozen times in my lifetime. Lived in a handful of foreign countries. This is the only place I’ve moved to where no one came to my door, or stopped by while I was moving in, to say “Welcome to the Neighborhood….my name is XYZ”…..”Can I help you with anything”?. The coined phrase in the early 60s of “Aloha” was for the tourists, and that is painfully obvious. This is the most openly racist state in the USA. The locals wear the “Tourist hate” and “Haole Hate” like it is a badge of courage. It really is sad and pathetic.

    3. Makana W. February 25, 2018 8:43 pm Reply

      Have you ever thought that the reason people don’t like transplants is that they arrive with the level of arrogance and dismissiveness you just displayed in your post? It’s people like you who make locals angry. With that attitude, paradise isn’t going to be very fun for you. Good luck. You will need it. I hope your house is in a white area with lots of transplants – especially for the sake of your children who may have taken on your horrible attitude.

  11. jake liggett February 22, 2018 12:50 pm Reply

    Yes, many visitors until hurricane repairs are finished in the Caribbean. Then watch the rates plunge. Not
    that many tourists want to make the long haul flight to Hawaii. A much shorter hop to the Caribbean, and
    not as many meth heads looking to rob your rental car.

    1. Edward Wagner February 26, 2018 6:52 am Reply

      You should actually go to the Caribbean and see what it’s like. There’s more crime there than any of the Hawaiian islands

  12. numilalocal February 22, 2018 1:14 pm Reply

    While increased numbers of visitors certainly contribute to island-wide congestion, so do the increasing number of people who are moving to Kauai. We didn’t used to see white faces on the island – locals were the majority – but now there’re “choke haoles” living here. And each of them has bought or rented a house and drives at least one vehicle. Let’s acknowledge all the causes instead of singularly blaming the visitor industry which apparently doesn’t know when to say when.

    1. behappy February 23, 2018 9:12 am Reply

      Very racist comment!

    2. Jake February 25, 2018 8:03 am Reply

      Please, if you can read, then read my comment above. You are the problem.

  13. Tooorist February 22, 2018 2:51 pm Reply

    Remember you people bring the drugs to hawaii to profit and pimp. You also brought diseases and this year’s terrible flu. There’s a big difference with west coast and east coast tourists and people know what I’m talking about.

  14. John Zwiebel February 22, 2018 5:12 pm Reply

    I support Planned Parenthood.

    If you think the tourist growth is bad on Kauai, you should check out the Yucatan Peninsula. The locals there aren’t all that happy about it either.

    But when people insist on the right to have more kids than the world can support; when people insist that climate change isn’t real; when people refuse to understand that in 1950 there were just barely 3Billion people and now there are nearly 9Billion; you have to wonder whether or not they are capable of thinking clearly about the problem.

  15. JustaThought February 23, 2018 5:03 am Reply

    I wonder if you put up a paid paking station on the main swimming beaches for rental cars only. All rental cars have to pay for parking and display their receipt in the window. Have one person ticket rental cars that do not have a receipt displayed in the window. This may pay for itself and generate money and a job for a local resident. Just a thought.

  16. behappy February 23, 2018 9:10 am Reply

    When more local people cannot find a place to park at the beach or cannot eat at their favorite local restaurant, they will start to speak up. Our island is overrun by tourist and yet we continue to pay the Hawaii Tourism Authority over 100 Million dollars a year to bring in more tourists. Maybe this money should be spent on roads, infrastructure and housing for our residents. Our roads continue to crumble and our parks cannot sustain the amount of tourist brought in by our ads and incentives. Our leaders continue to ruin paradise. They paved it and put in a parking lot.

  17. kauaidog February 23, 2018 11:23 am Reply

    Great article, well thought out and now what the heck is going to get done? I moved here 10 years ago, been visiting for 20 and couldn’t believe when I moved here we had no curbside recycling. This is a small island and we have to take care of it and at large our planet. Things are changing but do we really NEED more airline flights into our island. I say not one more hotel or development until we get this traffic situation fixed and that means getting the state to fix our roads!!! Coco Palms being a prime example of idiocracy. Fix the highway in front and then develop the Hotel. We have this six hundred hotel on hold to build next to the Courtyard Marriott. 600 rooms! The people, employees and service trucks just for that Hotel. OMG

    1. Jake February 25, 2018 8:09 am Reply

      You need to accept the fact that things are different in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and with the archaic Paradise Tax (aka Jones Act).

      Recycling costs more here, than to throw it in the landfill. Everything has to be shipped off the island, and that is very, very, very, expensive. Much cheaper to put on the hill in Kekaha. Sorry if the truth hurts. Pay for the plastic to be sent off the island, or put in to landfill for no cost. You know where the locals are going with it.

  18. KauaiLover February 24, 2018 2:33 am Reply

    I think it would be a shame to not let visitors enjoy this beautiful island. My first visit to the island was on my honeymoon 30 years ago. We fell in love with the island but the job opportunities were not there in my field so moving to the island permanently was not an option at that time. Instead we purchased our condo so we could visit couple of times a year for a couple of months each time until I retired. I have watched the progression of tourism on the Island. In my opinion the private vacation rentals are not the major contributor to the increase of tourists and congestion the obvious damage to the roads. In my view it is the big hotels coming to the island that is damaging our paradise. While the bring needed jobs to the Island they bring much more environmental damage than they are worth. More garbage, more traffic damaging the roadways, more carbon in the air from all of the rental cars that will eventually have a negative impact on the beautiful greenery that is special to this Island. At some point while tourists bring revenue to the island the amount that large hotels bring becomes counter productive to the reason people want to come to the Island begin with. There needs to be a limit on the new construction built solely for the tourists, large Resort complexes included. If a stop is not put to this our beautiful Island will become just like Oahu and Maui over run with everything some of us have come here to escape. We all need to speak out on any further developments being built and manage better the ones that are already here.

  19. Steve Martin February 24, 2018 3:35 pm Reply

    The county councils typical answer by the suggestions of the public are “we don’t have the power to do it and don’t have the money for enforcement… Why would you say we don’t have the money for enforcement when they don’t have the “power” to begin with? Last paragraph suggests if the council won’t do as you say we are taking upon ourselves to overrun the councils lack of actions. Really are you going to be the warrior leader of the vigilantly mobs actions. Who would expect it not to be a well thought solution.

  20. Steve Martin February 24, 2018 3:48 pm Reply

    I feel for ya. It seems many things are bad and all I can see to solve it would be.. Save your money buy your own private island and you too can live a problem free lifestyle and can only be bothered by who you choose to be bothered by. Aloha.

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