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Business Leaders Say Tourism Rebound Has Been More Than Kauaʻi Can Handle

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Casey Harlow / HPR
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This year, Kauaʻi’s tourism recovery roared back faster than expected. And business leaders there say it’s been more than the island can handle.

With the start of the Safe Travels program in April, visitation to Kauaʻi rebounded in a matter of weeks, says Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau.

Kanoho was one of four business and industry leaders PBN spoke with about how the Garden Island’s economy has been doing. By June, the island was seeing more than 100,000 visitors a month, matching and then exceeding record-breaking visitor counts in 2019.

This rebound ran headlong into three issues: one is the labor shortage, with businesses straining to serve that many customers.

The second is the rental car shortage, which she hopes to see resolved this fall. Shuttle companies chipped to pick up visitors stranded at the airport at no charge. Residents and even businesses with fleet vehicles have been renting their wheels out through the carshare phone app, Turo.

And the third issue is the strain on the natural environment.

Kanoho is optimistic that the island’s DMAP, or Destination Management Action Plan, will help manage visitor demand for certain hotspots and educate visitors on enjoying them responsibly. Read the full DMAP in the box below or click here.

Mark Perriello, president and CEO of the Kauai Chamber of Commerce, says virtually all of his member businesses are struggling with the labor shortage and just about the only ones making headway are those offering at least $20 an hour, regardless of position.

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