Hawaii’s lawmakers are on course to pass laws that would require tourists to pay a fee or get a license to visit the US state’s parks and wilderness. If passed, this would be the first such policy in the US. While the lawmakers haven’t yet settled on a fee, an amount of $50 has come up often. A list of the places for which this fee would be valid has not been drawn up yet. The bill has been scheduled for vote later this week.
Across the world, tourism hotspots such as Venice in Italy, Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands and the Pacific island nation of Palau charge tourists a fee or a tax to help counter the impact of their travel and contribute towards conservation of the natural environment.
“All I want to do, honestly, is to make travelers accountable and have the capacity to help pay for the impact that they have,” Hawaii’s governor Josh Green told AFP.
Travelers to Hawaii no longer restrict themselves to the beaches but head out into the state’s hiking and wilderness trails in search of remote destinations that will play well on social media. Managing such travelers can be a challenge for a small state. Hawaii’s most popular national park is the Diamond Head State Monument, which has a trail leading from the floor of a 300,000-year-old volcanic crater up to its summit. It receives 1 million visitors a year and the entry fee is $5 a head. “All these places that didn’t have visitors now have visitors,” said a local resident.
The bill, currently before the state house, would require non-residents over the age of 15 visiting forests, parks, trails or “other natural area on state land” to buy an annual license online to visit forest, parks and other natural areas. The legislation says proceeds would go into a “visitor impact fee special fund” managed by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Hawaii's conservation needs are many—from coral bleaching and invasive pests to safeguarding marine life and wildlife, the pressures on its natural beauty are many. Carissa Cabrera, project manager for the Hawaii Green Fee, a coalition of nonprofit groups supporting the measure, told AFP that this would ensure the state has money for conservation regardless of budget swings.
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