Vacation-rental agreement a good thing for island

As spring has turned to summer and fall is now on the horizon, it’s been a difficult number of months for everyone.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced Hawai‘i and its residents to recalibrate, rethink, and refocus much of our energy toward constructively outlining a plan that will keep our communities afloat amidst continued uncertainty. Such efforts have proven fruitful as the mayor of Kaua‘i recently announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding that formalizes a partnership with Expedia Group to assist Kaua‘i with enforcement of its vacation-rental law.

The agreement allows the county to more effectively regulate vacation rentals while simultaneously protecting the rights of responsible short-term-rental owners. It’s a historic achievement and an announcement that I welcome wholly and with open arms.

Over the years, tourism has become the lifeblood of Hawai‘i’s economy, and nearly 200,000 people in the islands are employed by the industry. Moreover, tourism accounts for at least 17% of the state’s total gross domestic product, and perhaps much more when the trickle-down from tourist-related income is considered. Of course, we need to work together to reassess how our economy is structured to work toward becoming more balanced and less dependant upon one segment for our survival.

The recently-signed MOU has come at a time when we need it most. This unprecedented action is the first voluntary agreement between a platform and a county in Hawai‘i offering assistance in compliance with an underlying law. The MOU is designed to allow the county to more-effectively track and regulate vacation rentals while protecting the ability of responsible vacation-rental operators in Kaua‘i County to welcome traveling families.

As an owner and operator of a unique homestay experience, I have had a front-row seat to the impact that the pandemic has had on the travel and short-term rental communities. But with change often comes innovation. My homestay is located on 7.6 acres of pristine agricultural land on the North Shore of Kaua‘i, and income from travelers has helped us to maintain our working farm and make ends meet.

As the local travel industry has adjusted to COVID-19, we have as well. We have temporarily welcomed long-term renters to stay at our “Twin Hearts” cottage at competitive rates. However, the reduced amount of income from our cottage jeopardizes our farm’s viability.

When Kaua‘i re-opens for visitors, which is inevitable eventually if we are to maintain a reasonable standard of living for our resident community, consider this: More so than any traditional hotel experience, our vacation rentals will be the safest and most secure way to enjoy a Kaua‘i getaway, as we oversee every aspect of the sanitation process to ensure that our guests will have the most relaxing and carefree experience.

Vacation rentals, now and previously, are one of the safest accommodation options. Not only are they adopting enhanced cleaning protocols developed by VRBO and the Vacation Rental Management Association, but they also facilitate a level of social distancing that is simply not possible with a traditional hotel experience.

Our cottage, within walking distance to one of the islands most beautiful beaches, is self-contained, and provides the needs required of those on vacation. And unlike most hotel chains, the earnings generated from short-term-rental properties benefit the local communities and constituents, and not the pockets of corporate boardrooms.

I warmly welcome Mayor Kawakami’s announcement and MOU. Because of the state and county’s early shutdown and the important actions taken by Kaua‘i Mayor Derek Kawakami, Kaua‘i is the island with the lowest number of COVID-19 infections in Hawai‘i, and should hopefully be in a position soon to start safely reopening to travelers.

As a proud resident of the island of Kaua‘i, I am lucky to be a farmer, as well as work in an industry that allows travelers and tourists from around the world to experience the beauty and wonder of our home and of these islands.

The aloha culture, our pristine beaches, and unique aloha spirit are all emblematic of a larger cultural heritage and experience — a heritage and experience that people actively seek out.

And it is with great pride that I am able to offer a small sampling of the aforementioned experience. The vacation-rental community is now prepared to meet and exceed the expectations outlined by the government and public-health officials. And I thank Kawakami and Expedia Group for acting and understanding tourism’s necessity for this community and our state at large


Bruce Fehring is a Kilauea resident and has lived on Kaua‘i for over 30 years.

  1. really August 3, 2020 7:39 am Reply

    vacation rentals are not a good thing for this island, unless they are in a vda. Bruce has approved employee housing for his farm, but he needs a vacation rental to make ends meet? theres buses occupied, shacks occupied and who knows how many tents as well. he claims the 500 dollar a month difference he makes vacation renting versus long term renting renders his pristine 7 acre farm unsustainable? I have a bridge for sale in Hanalei if your interested.What a total load of half truths. may tourism die and ag rise to the top.

    1. Steve Martin August 3, 2020 2:37 pm Reply

      Typical running at the mouth with assumption of facts and hides behind his or hers code name. Your opinion is disrespectful for those reasons.

    2. Da Shadow August 3, 2020 4:26 pm Reply

      wow. your level of selfishness is astonishing. so many of my friends, and aunties & uncles have found meaningful, sustainable employment related to the tourism industry.
      consider others before you make such silly statements. your comments suggest a level of hate that will be Kauai’s undoing.

    3. kauaiboy August 4, 2020 7:36 am Reply

      Why criticize a local working farmer who is struggling to survive? I honor small farmers who work so hard to bring produce to the local markets. Farmers markets are half as busy as they used to be. For all intents and purposes, there is no produce being sold to tourists or to restaurants which are reliant on tourism.

      Until the residents of Kauai realize that buying produce at Costco and Safeway and Foodland and Times and even Big Save is NOT, for the most part, supporting local Kauai farmers (most of the produce they sell is coming off barges from the mainland), local small family agriculture will never “rise to the top”.

      “Really”, why not buy yourself some farmland, work 24/7 to make it productive, and go to the farmers markets and look at the amount of produce which remains unsold at closing?

      Unless you are willing to do so, please tell us how we can better support those who break their backs trying to eke out a living from farming and stop dissing real farmers.

  2. Shelly August 3, 2020 8:13 am Reply

    I hope this improved regulation of vacation rentals will open the door to allow ADUs on agriculture zoned land -for families to have children live on their land to help with farming

  3. Sylvia Partridge August 3, 2020 11:51 am Reply

    Aloha Bruce,
    I do not understand what MOU is and
    why it is so beneficial to you. Perhaps
    you could explain the details?
    Sylvia Partridge

    1. Steve Martin August 3, 2020 2:47 pm Reply

      Sylvia….. Memorandum Of Understanding…MOU

    2. Fred Fennell August 4, 2020 2:38 pm Reply

      Some have responded with what the letters MOU stand for but if you don’t know what that is, they haven’t helped you. A Memorandum of Understanding outlines the broad details of an agreement while the fine details are hammered out for the contract. Sometimes, a government agency will choose to allow something to operate under an MOU rather than go through the process, and expense, to create the binding contract.

  4. Paulo August 3, 2020 1:54 pm Reply

    Aloha Mr F. Though we have not met my heart went out to you during the Ka Loko disaster with the loss of your family and friends. Nothing could be worse. The entire island grieved.

    Now you give us this thrilling info about your rental property being allowed under the Memo of Understanding with the county and how it will allow you to afford to farm your “7.6 pristine acres.” Then we get 2 and 3/4 columns more of drivel and advertising hype about the property as if we, the residents of this island, are your next rental targets. Your “aforementioned pride” being able to “warmly offer this vacation experience” to tourists from around the world doesn’t really cut much mustard with most of us. But thanks for telling us “the cottage is within walking distance to one of the island’s most beautiful beaches.” Hype we all need to know as we if we can’t wait to have our “most beautiful beaches” full of visitors. Yes at least we will have jobs from them, low paying though they are.

    Possibly you might become a little more in touch with the island inhabitants and hold your baloney and salesmanship for your adverts.

    1. kauaiboy August 5, 2020 8:24 am Reply

      Aloha Paulo.

      Mr. Fehring does not overhype his homestay cottage; he does not even provide us a contact number or address or website. He doesn’t even name the beach that his homestay cottage is near to. He seems to just be applauding the County’s recognition of the value of homestays to the local economy and the safety of our visitors.

      You may be enjoying Kauai without any “outsiders” but do you really want to return to a plantation community which is ruled by the hotels, big box stores, and wealthy corporations? I will take a more equitable society in which residents have the rights and ability to do more than to go to work for big business or try to work on getting what they can from a welfare society.

  5. Doug August 3, 2020 11:00 pm Reply

    Aloha Silvia,
    MOU = memorandum of understanding as explained in the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs.

  6. SS August 4, 2020 1:55 pm Reply

    This sentence here is the fact so often overlooked in the discussion of vacation rentals on Kauai:

    “And unlike most hotel chains, the earnings generated from short-term-rental properties benefit the local communities and constituents, and not the pockets of corporate boardrooms.”

    If we want to discuss long term sustainable economic growth for Kauai; we MUST keep the majority of spending from visitors here on island directly circulating through our economy and small businesses.

    While these large hotel (and agrichemical corporations) often tout that number of jobs they create; they rarely discuss the quality of those jobs and what percentage of the higher paying management level positions are sourced here on island vs. imported supervisors…

    When we look below the surface employment numbers advertised by these large multi-national corporations, we see the plantation mentality of extracting as much profit from the land while leaving a bare minimum for survival of the people who live here.

    Near minimum wage jobs are not going to lead to long term economic sustainability.

    With specific regard to vacation rentals; it would be most prudent for Kauai to balance things by allowing homestays where the home owner lives full time (files state income tax as a full time resident) on the same TMK as the rental property; as this will ensure that the profits stay within the community and trickle down to local small businesses through both increased consumer spending as well as hiring of local small businesses for cleaning repair and maintenance of the home stay property.

    Home stays will also help local home owners and families to pay their mortgage and stay in their homes. This is completely different from an investor/speculator type vacation rentals where the owner does not live onsite and often does not live on Kauai. Those types of vacation rentals are what drive up the cost of housing without providing substantial economic benefit to the island community and should be outlawed outside of the already legally established zones.

    1. kauaiboy August 5, 2020 8:09 am Reply

      Well said “SS”. Home stays are economically smart for Kauai residents, be they homestay owners, homestay workers, or those who benefit from trickle-down income created by keeping the money here on Kauai.

  7. Kathy Deutsch August 4, 2020 5:37 pm Reply

    Comment from a mainlander (sorry, maybe you don’t want my 2 cents). When my spouse and I take trips, no matter where, we get accomodations with a kitchen. We hit the local farmer markets and mostly cook our meals. When we do go out to eat (pre-virus) we always go to local places. We know we are visitors. We try to be respectful. And we do our darndest to help the local economy. Because when out of towners visit the Midwest, they help our economy. We have chickens, an orchard and a garden. We go to our own farmer markets weekly. We know how important agriculture is. And how important tourists can be.

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