|Jumping forward, this Hawaiian Horse carries the rider straight to the calf at the rodeo that continues through Sunday in Na'alehu.|
Photo by Brenda Iokepa-Moses
RODEO IS BACK IN KA'U THIS WEEKEND, after years of being out to pasture during the covid pandemic. The Ka'u Roping & Riding Association event at Na'alehu Rodeo Grounds drew a good crowd of paniolo and onlookers on Saturday. It's on again on Sunday with slack roping starting at 8 a.m. and the competitive roping, racing and other traditional events beginning at noon. On Saturday, the Rodeo Queen was named. She is Lily Dacalio, of Wood Valley and she reigns over the event with runnerup Zira
|Hat's off to the return of rodeo in Na'alehu. Photo by Eva Liu|
|Wahine and kane compete in roping and many other events|
at the rodeo through Sunday in Na'alehu. Photo by Eva Liu
A survey by Anthology Research of almost 4,000 tourists during the 2022 first quarter found that visitors from the U.S. West who say they will return to Hawaii within the next five years declined by 4.1 percentage points since the same period a year ago, to 82.2%. The percentage of people from the U.S. East wanting to return anytime soon fell by even more, 6.6 percentage points, to 66.6%.
According to the study, conducted for the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, the No. 1 reason cited by those who said they are unlikely to return soon was price. Visitors from across the U.S. said Hawaii has become "too expensive." A related complaint was that a trip to Hawai'i has become a "poor value."
|Young riders, young calves in this weekend's rodeo in|
Na'alehu. Photo by Brenda Iokepa-Moses
This is not to say the state should be using tax dollars to fund tourism marketing. Instead, I am saying we should cast off policies that are unnecessarily discouraging visitor arrivals. As we learned the hard way during the coronavirus lockdowns, any drop in tourism can have a ripple effect throughout every sector of our economy, including our state and county budgets and tax revenues. Like it or not, Hawai'i depends on tourism.
Even our excessively big state and county budgets are made possible — some might say "enabled" — by visitor dollars. If tourism declines, the pressure to make up those lost dollars will fall directly on Hawai'i taxpayers, accelerating the exodus that has already caused so many locals to leave for the mainland in search of lower living costs and greater opportunities.
|Patient horse as the team attempts to tie the calf.|
Photo by Brenda Iokepa-Moses
It's not just Hawai'i's hotels and rental cars that are expensive. Tourists also pay among the highest visitor-related taxes in the nation, including the state's 10.25% transient accommodations tax, the 3% TAT surcharge of the counties, the state's 4% general excise tax, the 0.5% GET surcharge of the counties, plus other fees and taxes.
Jack Richards, president of Pleasant Holidays LLC, told Schaefers that compared to 2019, the cost of a vacation to Hawai'i is now about a third more than in 2019.
"The prices to Hawai'i aren't sustainable," Richards said. "[The tourist industry] could get it before because there was so much pent-up demand, and a certain segment of the population would not travel internationally."
Now, with renewed competition from a reopened Europe and other destinations, Hawai'i is not as competitive as it used to be.
|Lily Dacalio is the 2022 Kaʻū Roping &|
Riding Rodeo Queen. Photo by Brenda Iokepa-Moses
When the Legislature panicked during the COVID-19 crisis and grabbed all the state TAT revenues, and allowed for a county-level TAT to further hike visitor taxes, I warned that higher costs could depress tourism. The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has issued similar warnings as the counties have tried to eliminate short-term vacation rentals, thereby shutting out another category of visitors.
Proposals like the $50 environmental-impact fee and continued efforts to shut down short-term vacation rentals will increase the price of a Hawai'i vacation even more, making the state even less attractive to repeat visitors.
If Hawai'i is going to fully recover from the economic effects of the lockdowns, we must focus on economic growth rather than new sources of tax revenue. That means giving Hawai'i's businesses — and our tourists — room to breathe.
We can do far more to shape the future of Hawaii tourism with a healthy economy than we can with one that is still limping, especially if we want our state to be affordable enough to both live in and visit.
E hana kākou! (Let's work together!)
|Youth roping with Kaʻū Roping & Riding at the rodeo this weekend. Photo by Brenda Iokepa-Moses|
|Safe roping event for keiki introduces them to competitive roping and sportsmanship. |
Photo by Brenda Iokepa-Moses
The Department of Law Enforcement will include the Department of Public Safety’s Law Enforcement Division (State Sheriff Division and Narcotics Enforcement Division) and Internal Affairs Office, Department of Transportation Harbors Division and the Department of the Attorney General’s Criminal Investigative Division. The department will also include the Department of Defense Office of Homeland Security, and the Hawaiʻi State Fusion Center.
|State law enforcement officials at the signing of a bill that|
creates the first new state department i 30 years. It's the a state
Department of Law Enforcement. Photo from the Governor's Office
Jordan Lowe, Public Safety Department's Deputy Director for Law Enforcement, said, “The consolidation will centralize command and control for the State’s critical incident management, improve interoperable communications, and the ability to handle complex multi-island investigations and improve overall efficiency of statewide law enforcement operations. The new DLE will also be able to provide additional resources for other law enforcement agencies in both independent and joint operations.”
State Sheriff Bily Oku, Jr. said, “We want to thank everyone involved in this past Legislative session who contributed to this momentous achievement to get this bill passed, creating our new State Department of Law Enforcement, It would take a week or longer to name everyone, but we want to thank the many people within the Department of Public Safety Sheriff Division who came together to craft the bill, along with all of the law enforcement agencies that threw their support behind it, and the lawmakers who saw the importance and passed it. We couldn’t have done it without everyone’s hard work and support.”