Hawaii’s state government is considering a new law that
would require tourists to pay for a yearlong
pass to visit parks and trails as part of an effort to offset the damage
done by travelers to the coral reefs, dolphin habitats and other environmental
According to The
Associated Press, Hawaiian Governor Josh Green originally pitched a $50 fee
for tourists to enter the state, following a similar model presented in Venice,
Italy, and Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands to avoid overcrowding and repair damage
done to the local landscape.
While there are concerns about the legislation being unconstitutional—the
document protects free travel within the United States—State Representative
Sean Quinlan said travel patterns have changed and social-media-influenced
visitors are seeking obscure locations the government doesn’t have the money to
“All I want to do, honestly, is to make travelers
accountable and have the capacity to help pay for the impact that they have,”
Governor Green told The AP. “We get between nine and 10 million visitors a year
(but) we only have 1.4 million people living here. Those 10 million travelers
should be helping us sustain our environment.”
The bill currently presented to the state’s Congress—after successfully
passing through the Senate—would require travelers 15 years and older who plan
to visit Hawaii’s “forests, parks, trails or other natural area on state land”
to purchase an annual license online or via mobile app.
Tourists who do not possess the travel
license would be forced to pay a civil fine—a five-year transition period
has been built into the legislation—but state residents with proper
identification would be exempt.
House Finance Committee Chair Kyle Yamashita said the bill
is a work in progress and removed a measure setting the fee at $50, while Representative
Dee Morikawa noted the local government should compile a list of places that
would require the license.
Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association CEO Mufi Hanneman
supports the bill, but voiced concerns that the money collected must be heavily
monitored to avoid misappropriation.
“The last thing that you want to see is restrooms that
haven’t been fixed, trails or pathways that haven’t been repaved or what have
you, and year in, year out it remains the same and people are paying a fee,”
Hannemann told The AP.
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