A Hawaii mayor is asking airlines to 'pause' flights as travelers invade the islands

  • Maui County mayor Michael Victorino asked airlines for a “pause.”
  • Hawaii has seen a massive boom of tourists as people begin to travel again.
  • Locals and businesses aren’t fully prepared for this influx of visitors, Victorino’s office told Hawaii News Now.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

“Revenge vacation” season is now moving full speed ahead, and while many travelers are racing to book a trip after a year of being stuck at home, the mayor of one tropical island is asking airlines to slow down: Maui, Hawaii.

“I have been talking with different airlines and … we’re asking for just a pause, if you want to use that term,” Maui County mayor Michael Victorino said during a press conference on June 29. “We don’t have the authority to say stop, but we’re asking the powers to be to help us.”

In recent weeks, the number of tourists flocking to Hawaii has sometimes surpassed 2019’s travel levels. And from July 1 to July 5, over 170,000 people traveled to the state, according to Hawaii’s travel data. As a result, the Kahului Airport in Maui has hit “overcapacity” with bottlenecks throughout the airport, according to Victorino.

In late June, Victorino also met with “airline executives” to potentially cut back on airlift to the airport, Rick Daysog reported for Hawaii News Now.

Video: Hawaii to relax COVID restrictions for tourists (Associated Press)

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“The people of Maui County have lacked sufficient time to prepare for the sudden, large influx of tourism, even as health restrictions remain in place,” Brian Perry, a spokesman for Victorino, told Hawaii News Now. “Many of our hospitality-related businesses are still struggling to fully staff their operations to provide a high quality of customer service.”

Over-tourism is not a new issue for the warm-weathered state. But despite the economic benefits of tourism, this massive influx of visitors has angered some locals who are concerned about COVID-19 spread and some of the visitors’ lack of adherence to health protocols.

“People are choosing to come to Hawaii not only because of its wonderful resources and people, but because there really isn’t a lot of choices,” Victorino said, citing that other international travel destinations currently have closed borders.

Some of these tourists also aren’t using “good common sense and [are] going into areas where they’re not supposed to,” therefore needing the island’s emergency services for rescuing, Victorino said.

This wave of visitors is also facing headwinds from the state’s rental car shortage, which has pushed tourists to rent U-Haul moving vans and trucks instead of rental vehicles. This may be a clever alternative, but it has left some U-Haul locations with less equipment to serve the locals.

“I want to remind the visitors that Maui is a community first and a vacation destination second,” Victorino said.

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