Perception, value and blatant example

Hawaii Visitor Fees: Perception, Value, and a Glaring Example

The topic of Hawaii tour fees couldn’t be more at the forefront of travelers’ minds. Those of us who live here think about it too. While it’s perfectly fine to levy a fee, and it’s not uncommon for other states to charge more for visitors than residents (see list below), there’s something going on here which deserves closer examination.

Hawaii implements two-tier pricing systems, in which visitors are charged more than residents for the same service. The state, other states, and other places around the world are doing it too, in part to develop more sustainable tourism and, in theory, to protect natural resources. Too many visitors have trampled Hawaii’s iconic locations, including Kauai’s North Shore, Hanauma Bay, and Oahu’s Diamond Head State Park, to name a few.

We were kind of blindsided by a fresh, below, that we didn’t remember, although not new. We have been to this place several times before, while traveling around Oahu. What a Hawaii resident had to say about the fees was telling.

Parking fee at Nuuanu Pali State Wayside Viewpoint on Oahu: $7.50

The state says, “Awesome view of Oʻahu upwind from the edge of the pali (cliffs) at 1200 feet elevation in the Koolau Range.” The lookout is always a nice stop for great views on a clear day. It is a historic lookout, where the Battle of Nuuanu took place in 1795.

A comment we just received sparked this: “I went to see the Pali and saw there was a parking fee of 7 dollars and 50 cents to go see a sight for ten minutes if that. Being a local, this really upset me. No, as a local I didn’t have to pay. But it angers me to see how visitors are exploited; It’s scandalous. Pro Park manages these parking fees, why? And where does this money go? So not cool. That alone would deter me from coming to visit Hawaii. In 2011, the state began charging visitors a $3 fee to park at the lookout. Residents do not pay.

The Deputy Administrator of State Parks once said, “It’s a pretty lucrative source of revenue at no cost to the state.” They say that over the decades the parks share of state money has declined and that these fees are necessary to maintain the parks.

Sanitary not included.

The state has never installed a toilet or running water at the gazebo. For years this was a huge problem with not even porta-potties. These were subsequently installed, in part thanks to revenue from visitor parking fees.

Hawaii Tour Fees: It’s all about perception and value.

Willingness to pay the Hawaii tour fee is tied to both empowerment and value. The act of paying an entrance fee represents an individual’s contribution to the maintenance of a collectively valued resource, which, conceptually, is more readily approved by most people. Entrance fees should be linked to the demonstrated improvement in the quality of the place. Visitors to Hawaii deserve to be informed and to feel valued for their participation.

It’s not just a question of money. As new visitation fees are implemented, and not just in Hawaii, care must be taken not to create sentiment between them and us. This does no good in a visitor-based economy. Demonstrating the value and significance associated with these fees is critical to their acceptance everywhere.

17 other states with out-of-state visitation fees.

Other states are moving in the same direction as Hawaii. They don’t seem to grab the headlines to the same degree, however, and the fees we found are largely camping-related, whereas in Hawaii they also apply to a wider range of activities.

Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming are examples of other states that levy in-state visitor surcharges.

In some of these states, visitors can pay 2-3 times what residents pay. In other places, the surcharge is less.

Is there a better way to make Hawaii tour fees work?

Your input on this increasingly important topic is appreciated.

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About Jermaine Chase

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