The price of paradise
Hawaii’s lawmakers are considering passing a bill that would require tourists to pay a $50 annual fee to visit the state’s parks and trails.
Hawaii’s natural beauty has seen its popularity soar in recent decades, with the island state welcoming more than 10 million visitors for the first time ever in 2019. That’s some 7x the state’s population of 1.4m. The fee — intended to help take care of the archipelago’s natural resources — follows in the footsteps of similar taxes in popular destinations such as Venice, the Galapagos Islands, Palau and elsewhere.
Take a hike
One reason the bill is gaining steam is because of the changing habits of tourists, who collectively parted ways with $13.1bn on their vacations in 2021. The government points to the falling popularity of golf and rise in hiking as an example. Indeed, the number of rounds of golf played (yes, Hawaii’s local government keeps track of this) has fallen 40% since the turn of the century, whilst hiking is now the go-to activity on the island, putting increased strain on trails and paths.
The $50 fee, which happens to match the recommended donation to get your name in the ballot for a spot in the famous Hawaii Ironman, would particularly help maintain the lesser-known spots which have suddenly become busy thanks to posts on social media. It’s not quite as much as the $200 tax that the sought-after Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan charges per day.
Hawaii’s natural beauty has long been a major draw for tourists from around the world, and the state’s government is keen to ensure that its natural resources are protected for future generations to enjoy. The proposed $50 annual fee would enable the state to maintain and enhance its parks and trails, which are under increasing pressure due to the high volume of visitors.
The rise of social media has played a significant role in driving tourism to Hawaii, with popular sites and trails often becoming overcrowded as a result of the exposure they receive on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. By introducing this fee, the government hopes to encourage tourists to explore lesser-known areas and to ease the strain on the state’s more popular attractions.
Critics of the proposal have argued that it could deter tourists from visiting Hawaii, or that the fee would be an unnecessary expense for those already spending significant sums on travel and accommodation. However, supporters of the measure point out that it is a small price to pay for the opportunity to experience some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery, and that the funds raised by the fee would be used to benefit both tourists and locals alike.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to implement the fee will be up to Hawaii’s lawmakers. However, it is clear that the state is facing significant challenges in managing its natural resources and balancing the needs of visitors with those of its residents. The proposed fee is just one of many measures that may be necessary to ensure that Hawaii remains a paradise for generations to come.