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Maui County considers measure to limit visitor accommodations amid tourism resurgence

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The resurgence of tourism on Maui to pre-pandemic levels has the county considering a measure to limit the number of visitor accommodations including hotel rooms and vacation rentals.

Prior to the pandemic, a record-high 3 million tourists visited Maui, Molokaʻi, and Lānaʻi in 2019. Now that visitors are returning, councilmembers are looking for ways to combat overtourism.

Maui County Councilmember Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, who introduced the bill, says it would place a cap on the number of visitor accommodations based on what’s currently operating in Special Management Areas.

"Whatever the current operating transient accommodations, all the tourist accommodations – whatever’s operating now – it’ll be capped at that. Because there are a lot of properties, for example, that aren’t in the SMA, that don’t need district boundary amendments or zoning change and so they don’t need to come to council. And so if they have all their entitlements, they can just build without any community or public input. So this legislation would stop that from being able to happen," Ralins-Fernandez said.

The council approved the measure in April, and it now goes before each island’s planning commission for consideration.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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