Hawaii Uses Coronavirus As Excuse To Attack Airbnb and Protect Hotels

Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis Hawaii has mixed a legitimate desire to keep cases out of the islands and prevent spread with a fear and even hatred of outsiders. For instance they didn’t just require quarantines on arrival for people coming from the rest of the U.S., they even barred Airbnbs from accepting new guests.

People could only stay through their existing contracts and then they had to leave. Kicking people off the island didn’t help stop the spread of the virus to the island..

Among additional restrictions Hawaii has considered is requiring anyone coming to the island have a ticket to leave. Again, that does not thing to stop the spread of the virus, and just represents using the virus as a mask for hate-filled legislation.

Now there’s a move to keep tourists segregated in resort areas and keep them out of Hawaiian neighborhoods that want to keep those neighborhoods only for locals.

The plan is to:

  • Restrict homesharing rentals from re-opening as the state lifts COVID-related restrictions
  • This has the ‘added benefit’ of helping hotel lobbyists, because consumers would have fewer choices that compete with hotels.

Maui Mayor Mike Victorino said he would like to keep visitors in the resort areas of his county without “utilizing our residential facilities.” Hotels and resorts should open first and reestablish themselves, he said.

…Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said his planning department is working with police and the National Guard to ensure transient rentals are not taking tenants.

Hawaii Mayor Harry Kim said he did not believe short term rentals will be allowed to open soon.

The powers that have been used in response to coronavirus have been extraordinary. The slap dash spending bills driven by coronavirus and the recession have led to what can only be called looting by several companies – and airports. Every crisis is an opportunity for those who seek to exploit it.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I love hawaii, been to every island, but this is BS
    The solution is simply not to go to hawaii and when honolulu becomes an even bigger shithole (which I skip every time) and the locals in other islands suffer from lack of tourism, then they will reverse course

  2. Florida was the same way for a bit. The hotels in the panhandle were open for about 2 or 3 weeks while the hotels were open.

  3. All around @Gary, I think coronavirus, the lockdown, etc, etc. just gives us a clearer to how totally corrupt our political system and career politicians have become.
    Q: How many HI officials, appointed or elected, have lost a penny in pay as a result of the lockdown, their measures etc…? We already know the answer to that. Pity the poor individual investors getting short-shafted. But of course, HI will forgive their property tax bills, won’t they????

  4. Sorry, single residence homes were CLOSED for about 2 or 3 weeks while the hotels were open. Apologies!

  5. Spend your cash elsewhere. Let Hawaii rot with it’s garbage attitude.

    Going down to 49 States would be fine by me, let them see how they can do without the rest of us.

  6. Wow Howard, sure don’t feel any Aloha. Maybe you should come here after all. Can you please let me know what state you live in so I can also say it’s a “garbage state” and needs to leave the union?

    Please don’t hate on my beautiful state just because you can’t get a cheap Air B&B right now. SMH, with all that’s going on right now in the US, and you feel it’s ok to spread more hate. Please don’t.

  7. Hawaii is the most beautiful state. Can’t say the same about Hawaiians. They sell fake aloha when they only want to separate you from your money.

  8. To prevent the spread of disease, we should stop ALL flights into or out of the islands. Hawaii would make it less than 48 hours without the food and other goods produced by us poor schlubs on the mainland. The esteemed leaders of our youngest state might also need a refresher in the US Constitution, as they seem to forget that US citizens may travel freely amongst the several states, and the power to restrict interstate trade is vested solely in the United States Congress. I’m sure the Marines stationed on the island could provide a refresher if needed. I get the need for some protective measures, but this is getting out of hand.

  9. After how they handled the Coronavirus thing, I will never spend another dime there. I’ve put up with surly Hawaiians just because my wife likes it there…I could have cared less about oing there in the first place. It’s pretty clear they hate the rest of us anyway. Also, every tourist they arrested should sue sue sue!

  10. Georgia did something similar. Tattoo parlors and other silly businesses where you get coughed on were open a week before vacation rentals. Makes me really happy to pay my taxes there.

  11. Hawaii and the way they are handling things is an embarrassment to the USA. I’ve heard about pure hatred and xenophobia. Plain and simple. My friend has lived there 15 years and said he encounters hatred almost every single day from people hassling or making obscene comments even though he has been a great resident for 15 years. Owns an expensive property there, pays taxes, etc.

    He tells me that many locals are making more in unemployment now vs. what they were getting paid so they really want this to get extended longer so they get the unemployment benefits. The longer they ban tourists, the longer the locals don’t have to work and still get paid. This is sad.

  12. Gary, it’s worth noting that, at least on Oahu, unlicensed vacation rentals (almost all of them, Airbnbs included) are illegal and have been for many, many years. There are thousands of them, though, and the local government has no effective way of controlling them. Especially since companies like Airbnb wouldn’t assist – and they’ve long refused to collect transient accommodations taxes on behalf of the state.

    What’s more, while there are rentals owned by local residents, there are MANY that are owned by out-of-state investors. Now, I know this problem isn’t unique to Hawaii, but how do you ensure housing remains affordable and available for the people that live and work here when out-of-state investors keep buying them up? Even undesirable parts of the island are getting quite pricey these days. And the fact that many of the households in Hawaii are multigenerational ones living in close quarters means that we have a far higher risk of rapidly spreading the virus throughout our communities.

    In regards to the overall COVID-19 response – yes, many of the rules in place probably aren’t going to prevent the spread of the virus. Hawaii’s goal has always been mitigation. Remember, we’re an isolated landmass that will have a much harder time dealing with a major outbreak than the rest of the US. In fact, the medical systems on the islands other than Oahu aren’t so good. And if you look at an island like Kauai specifically, there are more residents over the age of 60 there than under.

    Hawaii cannot afford to respond to the pandemic like the rest of the US because we have a huge combination of unique circumstances.

  13. @HT, actually, Floridavacation rentals were shut down for between 8 and 9 weeks (including Easter and Memorial Day for many) while hotels remained open the whole time. And when the governor finally did explain his reasoning for leaving hotels open, he said it was for national guard troops and other essential workers. Except he allowed vacation rentals to house those people as well, as an exception to the shutdown, so his explanation made no sense. The hotel lobby is strong in Florida. Even when vacation rentals were allowed to reopen, it was county by county, starting with republican counties.

  14. Gary, Thank You. I’ve been writing about this in forums, hoping someone with a larger audience would actually realize what was happening in Hawaii under the guise of ‘quarantine’ and begin to discuss it. Coupled with the governor’s office’s efforts to establish paths for “desirable” high dollar foreign tourism – and provide to them alternatives to travel to the Hawaii without quarantine measures – before it’s afforded to mainland US visitors – I’m quite soured on Hawaii. It’s very obvious this is happening but the Hawaii destination experts on travel forums are so relentless in controlling their own narrative of the message – combined with the overall hate of short term vacation rentals by the Hawaii populace and the state – makes it very challenging to get this message out effectively. Kudos to you for giving it a go.

  15. Not cool, Gary, to paint an incomplete picture. Part of the issue is that this state has reached a peak level of tourism by population with a decrease in spend per visitor, consequently resulting in an unsustainable stress on the infrastructure and essentially pushing locals to the fringes of everyday joys. Case in point, there are 17,000 rental cars parked on Maui right now. For an island of 120K we need to have an influx of that many people day after day, every year? Locals can no longer visit the Haleakala sunrise/sunset unless they schedule six months ahead. This is because of tourists who can by design book such an experience. Locals should not have to nor will not. A local coffeeshop in Makawao prices its coffee to the tourist dollar, essentially penalizing the local who, yeah, even with discretionary money, has to pay $3 for an 8oz coffee. Please.

    I’m for managed tourism. I work with people who own condos and have Air BnBs .. all designed for tourists. I want their livelihood to thrive, but I also like the fact that our beaches have been “relaxed” and our roads have been “empty” and our health food stores are not “swamped.” My colleagues like this too. So what gives. Yeah, maybe government should be doing more for different sectors, different folks. It has to start somehow. Will their approach be perfect, good, acceptable? What does that even mean?

    Beyond the many just straight-up ignorant people who responded to your post that may have visited here but do not live here, I expect a more responsible editorial on your part.

  16. Have you not read that most airbnbs are owned by corporations, not local residents? And airbnb is just as corrupt and depraved as Uber. Why would you want to support them?

  17. Makes sense to me, the Air B and B crowd drives up the cost of housing for everyone else, just like private landlords who over leveraged and bought up every cheap house also drive up the cost for all but new homes. Let them all go bankrupt. People need places to live that are not over inflated because a bunch of greedy landlords and Air B & B ers want to buy up the market.

  18. Hi Gary,
    airbnb has overstayed their welcome in the world’s neighborhoods. What started out as a novel approach to let one’s apartment while the owner was temporarily out of town, or to rent a room for extra income, has turned into a grotesque destroyer of neighborhoods. Tourist cities from Barcelona to Berlin have seen their neighborhoods destroyed by investors snapping up apartments which were normally rented to citizens residing in such neighborhoods. These neighborhoods had character and supported many different types of businesses, many small, which catered to a wide variety of needs and services.

    With the arrival of airbnb, these neighborhoods slowly die and become a s#%* hole for the remaining residents-who also slowly depart due to either sky high rents, or the lack of respect the airbnb residents have. The surrounding businesses close up, as the only service now required is a mini-market that sells drinks and snacks.

    If it were up to me, I would ban airbnb from all cities and ensure people reside at hotels or commercial establishments. This would also ensure that tax revenue would be collected and delivered to the cities to help pay for the rubbish removal and public transit costs.

    Airbnb is a plague and needs to be eradicated.

  19. Limiting airbnbs isn’t just about protecting hotels. In high tourism areas airbnbs are driving up housing prices and limiting affordable housing availability. This problem is not limited to Hawaii but also afflicts many European cities and is caused by outside investors, not by locals trying to have a side income.

  20. The lengthy Covid-19 lockdowns have placed society in general under enormous stress, resulting in irrational and economically destructive behavior by some communities. This is an example of it.

  21. No surprise. Every reaction to Coronavirus, for whatever its stated purpose, has turned into a simple transfer of wealth and power, from the young, poor, and politically powerless, to the older, wealthy and politically powerful. That corporate hotels are using the power of government to smash their competition in the name of the public good, should surprise nobody . . . unless one isn’t paying attention.

  22. The “air” in airbnb originally referred to “air mattress.” The idea was that people would welcome guests for a modest payment in a people to people movement. But with time that evolved into large scale operations that do create problems for the local housing market and for neighborhoods. My last airbnb rental was one of the original type – I had a bedroom, but everything else was shared with the family, who were often present. I don’t know exactly how you would structure it, but perhaps there would be a way to allow the “extra room in a family home” people to operate as they have been, while putting greater taxes, licensing and other limitations on those that are just investment properties – because of their impact to residential neighborhoods, not because of their impact to hotels.

  23. Just to clarify for those that are hating on vacation rentals, in Florida, they are required to be licensed both at the state level and at the local county level and pay the same sales and tourist taxes that hotels do, so the complaints voiced about vacation rentals do not apply in Florida

  24. The idea that tourists will stay in a particular area is ridiculous. I like to seek out authentic, better priced restaurants away from the tourist strip and less crowded beaches, parks etc. At the moment I may not sit down but would order takeout. If there was any kind of restrictions I would be inclined to pick another destination…

  25. @Island miler. @J
    Thanks for adding important context which @Gary chooses to ignore while spewing his “thought leading” simplistic rhetoric.

  26. My understanding is that recently Hawaii was seeing an increase in number of tourists but the spending per tourist was declining and that was a concern. I thought that Hawaii was extending Aloha to people of all income and not only rich folks. Apparently, this not the case as they only value tourist $$$. If the intention is to get only the tourists with high spending, then closing Airbnb, will only result in further inflation of all the prices for the services. Why would you sell a cup of coffee for $1 when you can charge $5.? You see the same things in other places in mainland USA. One year ago I was talking to a business owner from Seattle. When they opened up >20 years ago near downtown they didn’t have a decent place for lunch but driving to work was not a problem. Now there are plenty of restaurants around because the area is occupied by Amazon offices. They still don’t go out for lunch because those places are expensive + they got traffic and parking problem.

  27. Aloha to all you haters out there. Hawaii does and will continue to do the right thing at its own pace, thats the culture and thats the charm. I’ve lived all over the world and I feel so blessed to live in such a beautiful paradise which is part of the US. Our islands will open… and when we do, those that appreciate will be welcomed with amazing aloha. SW

  28. I’m glad you brought this up. This applies to the Big Island but parts of it to other islands as well.
    – Hotels are allowed to be open but not vacation rentals, although by any measure vacation rentals are safer.
    – Unemployment is 50%+ (higher than reported because so many people are paid under the table.) And now they have also taken away owners’ source of rental income, for no reason than to appease the hotel industry.
    – As evidence of that, the state claims the reason they hate short term rentals is because they reduce the market of long term rentals. (Proven untrue by studies, and in fact it’s their fault nobody wants to long places term rent because they refuse to ever evict a long term renter for any reasons. Also most people know the real reason is the power of the hotel lobbies and unions.) Regardless, now some vacation rentals want to accept long term rentals, so they can pay their mortgages, and have been told in no uncertain terms they are not allowed to, that taking a long term rental will vacate their short term rental permit. This was never disclosed during the short term permitting process and has no rationale besides trying to cause people to sell or give up their properties. (The requirement to renew a permit is to have at least one short term rental during the previous year. There is no requirement to never do a long term rental.)
    – It is dispicable that they are using Covid as an excuse to take away people’s only source of income, to kick them while they are down.
    – It has also become clear during Covid how much they hate tourists in general, despite being dependent on them. But that is another issue.

  29. Let’s see… Native Hawaiians hate the non-natives. Tourists, especially from the mainland, are only useful for as much money as they can be scammed from. How about we all just #BoycottHawaii for a few years.

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