Hawaii mayor asks airlines to ‘pause’ flights as post-pandemic tourists rush to state

‘We’re asking for just a pause, if you want to use that term,’ Mayor Mike Victorino says as travelers overwhelm Maui County

Nathan Place
New York
Wednesday 07 July 2021 16:21 BST
<p>Mayor Mike Victorino of Maui County, Hawaii, asks airlines to slow down the influx of tourists</p>

Mayor Mike Victorino of Maui County, Hawaii, asks airlines to slow down the influx of tourists

As tourists flood back into Hawaii after a long Covid-induced slump, one mayor is asking airlines to pump the brakes.

“We’re asking for just a pause, if you want to use that term,” Maui’s mayor, Mike Victorino, said at a recent press conference. “We don’t have the authority to say ‘stop,’ but we’re asking the powers that be to help us in this sense.”

Since the pandemic began to ease off in the United States, Hawaii has become overrun with tourists. For the first three days of July, the state took in more than 35,000 travellers per day.

The surge has pushed some of Hawaii’s resources beyond their capacity. Mr Victorino complained of multiple bottlenecks at Maui’s airport, and a shortage of rental cars has become so severe that some tourists have started renting U-Haul trucks instead.

“I hate using these terms, but we need to make some kind of resolve to slow them down,” the mayor said.

Part of the problem, Mr Victorino said, is that so much of the world is still closed to tourists. Since the start of the pandemic, much of Europe, Asia, and Australia have set strict limits on incoming travel, and even now those restrictions are being lifted in slow and confusing ways. As a result, Hawaii is one of the few destinations available.

“For more than a year, Covid-19 stopped everybody from going almost everywhere,” the mayor said. “And so now Maui has become – and the state of Hawaii – a focus point for that pent-up demand. We’d like to welcome them, but we also realise that we only have so many beaches.”

The result has been a tourism bottleneck in the Aloha State, and officials say Maui is struggling to keep up.

“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 spokesperson for the mayor, 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.”

However, airlines have made no clear commitment to honour the mayor’s request. According to the Associated Press, Hawaiian Airlines has only said vaguely that it will work with the mayor to solve the problem, and Alaska Airlines said it would “work together on responsibly rebuilding Maui’s tourism industry and economy.”

Meanwhile, the “over-tourism” continues.

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

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