Is there such a thing as Over-tourism?

Is there such a thing as over-tourism? If so, what does it look like? Well, for most of us, it looks like the North Shore these days. Beach parking lots fill up earlier than ever, traffic jams are more frequent and intense at the usual spots and spreading to more areas, and formerly quiet places are overrun by throngs of people following social media instructions.


For about $15, visitors can buy self-guided tours with exciting names like “Legendary North Shore Loop,” a full day plan featuring 23 stops and 119 navigation points. Happy customers share their enthusiasm online with comments such as “The Eastern Oahu Loop had so many fun stops and tips that only a local guide would know.”


One of the saddest conversations I have with constituents is when they tell me they have to move out because the owner is converting their dwelling into a vacation rental. A few years back, a constituent knocked on my door to ask for help. She stood there with her teenage son, apologizing for bothering me on a Saturday morning, but desperate to find somewhere on the North Shore to live, where she and her family had lived for decades. I did not mind her asking, but I felt terrible that I had no answer to help her.


It is no secret that we face a severe housing shortage in Hawaii. Conversion of long-term rentals into visitor accommodations makes the situation even more dire. While some may argue that deluxe beach front homes would never be considered affordable, they cannot deny thousands of more modest properties are now reserved for tourists instead of residents. These are not just room rentals that tutu needs to help pay the mortgage, they are business enterprises, often owned by investors with many such properties.


Recently, I learned that several more families are getting moved out by a new owner who plans to upgrade the apartments, charge exorbitant rents that no locals could afford, and set aside at least a couple of the units for tourists. An illegal, mini-hotel may be in the making. These stories are far too common.


The City and County of Honolulu has not issued a new permit for transient vacation units since 1989. Except for some exceptions in resort areas like Turtle Bay, virtually every vacation rental opened in the last 32 years is illegal. Illegal. Not legal. This illegal, greedy catering to visitors at the expense of residents must be reined in.


If you, or someone you know, was ever moved out of a home to make way for a vacation rental, please send me a message at SenRiviere@capitol.hawaii.gov, or call 808-586-7330. We can be discrete if you have any hesitation in coming forward, but I would like to hear your story. Also, if you live next to a vacation rental, please let me know about your experiences. I welcome all comments and experiences from residents impacted by vacation rentals.


On another subject, DOT now says the Wilikina Road resurfacing project will begin in August.


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