Maui residents’ views on tourism plummet, but perception of state rises – new survey

“Take Back the Beach” event at Kaʻanapali in 2021. PC: Courtesy of Tiare Lawrence

Nearly half of Maui County residents polled in a recent visitor industry survey said the island was run for tourists at the expense of locals – the highest negative response from the survey. State.

For Maui residents who said tourism creates more problems than benefits, overcrowding was the top concern.

The states Spring 2022 Resident Sentiment Survey published on August 26 showed that 48% of Maui County respondents said they agreed with the statement: “This island is run for tourists at the expense of locals” – up from 39% in fall 2021 For Kauaʻi, 39% agreed with the statement, along with 29% for Oʻahu and 26% for the island of Hawaii.

Overall, the State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism said its regular survey showed early signs of strengthening residents’ sentiment toward tourism. Favorable perception of the tourism industry statewide has risen from 49% in the fall to 54% this spring.

In 2019, visitors spent nearly $18 billion in Hawaii, generating $2 billion in tax revenue to support local schools, hospitals and infrastructure, the survey found.


When asked if tourism is “worth the hassle associated with the industry,” Maui County’s popularity jumped from 73% in the fall to 60% this spring.

A breakdown of areas in Maui County shows fewer respondents thought the industry was worthwhile. Comparing the fall and spring surveys, those who said sightseeing was worth it dropped from 75% to 58% for West Maui, from 72% to 59% for Central/East Maui, and from 76% in 64% for Moloka’i.

On Lanai, it went from 83% in the fall to 91% in the spring.

For Maui County residents who said tourism creates more problems than it benefits, overcrowding is the top concern, followed by environmental damage and traffic issues, followed by rising prices / cost of living.

Overcrowding on Maui has increased from 62% in the fall to 75% this spring.


Using a 10-point scale, where 10 is extremely positive and 1 is extremely negative, 45% of Maui County respondents ranked the impact of tourism on “you and your family” in the low range: from one at five. It showed feelings have worsened since the fall, when 40% responded to the lower level.

Kauaʻi followed at 41%, then Oʻahu at 39% and the island of Hawaiʻi at 37%.

For the spring survey, 63% of Maui County respondents said it was extremely important that “additional hotel/condo/timeshare unit construction” not be permitted. This was an increase from the fall, where 53% agreed with the statement.

Earlier this year, Maui County Council overruled a veto by Mayor Michael Victorino to implement a temporary moratorium on the construction of new hotels and transitional lodging units. The county is considering a move that would make caps on visitor units more permanent. However, opponents of the proposed caps said it would not stop visitors from coming.

Both Maui County and Kauaʻi this spring have seen an increase in the desire to designate resident-only days of the week at certain state parks, beaches and trails. Maui County went from 36% in the fall to 44% in the spring; Kauaʻi went from 39% in the fall to 46% in the spring.


Maui County is in the early stages of public prospecting for Park Maui, a program that will charge visitors to park at high-traffic county parks and beaches. Touted as a way to manage overtourism and put residents first, the scheme remains unclear on how it will ensure places are available for residents. At a recent meeting, officials said the parking spaces would not be reserved for residents.

Visitors to Maui County in July hit the highest monthly number since the pandemic, with 304,878 visitors arriving on the islands.

The Maui Island Plan, part of the Maui County Code, requires that visitor numbers not exceed one-third of the resident population. Last month, the average daily tourist census showed that there were two residents for every tourist, about 50% more than expected.

Since Hawaii reopened to tourism in October 2020, the state has experienced a faster-than-expected resurgence in tourism due to pent-up economies and demand. Although neighboring islands are more dependent on visitor money than Oʻahu, Maui County residents at government meetings have called for better management of tourism to mitigate negative impacts on infrastructure, natural resources and quality of life. residents’ lives.

Residents’ sentiment toward tourism was quite strong in the late 1980s until 2010 and then began to decline, according to state data. In 2021, less than half of respondents “strongly/rather agree, tourism has brought more benefits than problems”.

Resident sentiment, one of the key performance indicators in the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s 2020-25 Strategic Plan, has been measured since 1988. The spring survey was conducted by Omnitrak Group Inc. and was conducted from May 7 to July 30. all four counties participated in the survey by telephone and online.

Statewide sampling produced a total of 1955 respondents, including 839 for Oʻahu, 458 for the island of Hawaiʻi, 403 for Maui County, and 255 for Kauaʻi.

Lynn A. Saleh