Kauai officials promise to manage tourism concerns by teaching visitors about the Aloha Pledge
The anger that resulted in Kauai protesters temporarily turning back tourists entering the stretch of Kuhio Highway that leads into Ha‘ena was tempered Wednesday after state and county officials promised more collaboration in managing tourism on the Garden Isle.
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The anger that resulted in Kauai protesters temporarily turning back tourists entering the stretch of Kuhio Highway that leads into Ha‘ena was tempered Wednesday after state
and county officials promised more collaboration
in managing tourism on the Garden Isle.
Tourists who arrived
at the gateway to Lumahai, Wainiha and Ha‘ena were allowed to venture into North Shore attractions. But not before being greeted by community volunteers telling them to respect local road rules, use non-reef harming sunscreen and avoid walking on the fragile coral.
As part of a new grassroots initiative, they also received copies of the Aloha Pledge — a tourism management effort to
get visitors to promise they will obey rules, follow laws, and respect local
residents and the environment.
The Aloha Pledge is seen as an opportunity for residents and visitors to assume joint responsibility for Kauai’s well-being — an issue of growing importance given that tourists vastly outnumber locals, said Megan Wong, a member of the Old
Hanalei Courthouse hui.
On Tuesday, protesters went as far as crawling onto the hoods of tourists’ cars to prevent them from reaching Ha’ena. “It’s not about blocking the road anymore. We want to use this time to stop and educate people,” Wong said.
The state’s reopening
of Kuhio Highway on
Monday restored access to some of the Garden Isle’s most popular tourist attractions under new tourism management guidelines. A new Ha‘ena State Park Master Plan limits visitation to 900 people a day from an estimated 3,000 daily before the road closed due to flood damage in April 2018. There are also new parking restrictions and other measures meant to control
the number of tourists.
While there was some praise for tourism management at Ha‘ena State Park, the new limits pushed visitors without permits to other parts of the community — leaving rubbish on the pristine shores and walking on
the region’s delicate reefs. Speeding motorists, who killed two pet dogs in the community, only fueled the fire.
Mahina Laughlin, a Wainiha resident, said Tuesday’s protest drew attention to the challenges of overtourism.
Laughlin, who owns Aloha Pearls in Hanalei, said she’s well aware that the community needs tourism to survive, but wants to see visitor counts that aren’t
at odds with the island’s limited capacity to handle the numbers. Less than 1,000 residents live near Ha‘ena State Park, where the number of tourists was at an estimated 730,000 or more annually before the road closed.
“We made a stand Tuesday. We aren’t going to
let it go back to business as usual,” Laughlin said. “We spoke with county and state officials and they agreed to do more to help us.”
Sue Kanoho, Kauai Visitors Bureau executive director, said the bureau has distributed information about the Aloha Pledge to travel agents, tourism businesses and global marketing partners.
“Monday was a rough start, but we expected that when we were working on the new rules. We all knew that we would have to adapt and we are working on addressing areas where we might be short,” Kanoho said.
Additional progress was made Tuesday after members of the community participated in a conference with county and state officials, Laughlin said. Ramping up parking enforcement to include possibly deputizing community members to give out tickets was among the ideas discussed, she said. There also was talk
of installing speed bumps before the community’s
rural bridges and adding rangers to assist with
tourism management at popular sites, Laughlin