There’s been a fair amount of talk lately about the promotion of Kailua as a tourist destination for the “Honolulu – been there, done that” crowd and the relatively rapid development of legal and illegal vacation rentals to feed this niche. Too many of these rentals, the opposition says, replace actual housing for local residents and drive up the prices, which are some of the highest real estate prices on Oahu and in the state.
Obviously, many Kailua residents aren’t too much in favor of seeing their idyllic town turned into a short-term vacation mecca. Aside from the housing shortage and resulting price bump, many have complained about the change in atmosphere, from a beautiful quiet coastal spot just a short drive over the pali from Honolulu into one being promoted on postcards and travel brochures from here to New York.
You have to admit – unless you’re a devoted hermit, there’s something to be said for knowing your neighbors will be the same neighbors a week from now. If you’re surrounded by too many vacationers for too long, you may start to feel like an outsider in your own home. Not too comforting.
But at the same time, tourism on Oahu can’t be confined to just Honolulu. I can tell you from entertaining friends every year who visit from the mainland, they get bored after a few days of Honolulu’s offerings. They want to get out and explore and find some more fun things to do. They want to see what else Oahu has to offer and once they do that, they don’t feel the need to follow the crowd and stay in your typical Waikiki hotel room.
Once that decision has been made, Kailua stands as the next reasonable spot for a visitor to call their temporary home. It’s beautiful, has a great swimming beach along with adjacent Lanikai, and is still very accessible to Honolulu. It’s hard to argue with that winning combination.
So while I understand Kailua residents’ concerns about the growth of local tourism, I think this is largely a case of inevitable tourism expansion which happens in all corners of the globe, especially in areas that attract repeat visitors. I’ve done a lot of traveling in my younger days from Belize to Israel to Ecuador and other places, and I’ve seen previously “off the map” areas embrace tourism and become fully functional “on the map” destinations in very short time periods — but with a price. One exception — Dominica (not the Dominican Republic), which, at least at the time of my stay in 2003, was very vocal about its desire to limit the extent of tourism.
The other concern about the illegal rentals, however, is valid and if that is addressed or enforced then at least that would slow down the tourism impact and give local residents more time to examine the issue and plan according to their own wishes. The law’s the law and if you run an illegal rental, then you do so understanding the risks and potential shutdown. For some, apparently, the pros still outweigh the cons.
One thing’s for certain – there’s no keeping Hawaii off the map. There won’t be a slowdown of people wishing to vacation in Kailua anytime soon. Whether that desire gets fulfilled or not is the real question. The demand is there and will continue. The real factor is the availability — the supply.
Is this “repeat visitor spillover” effect limited to just Oahu? I doubt it. What other areas of Hawaii are seeing an uptick in short-term vacationers squeezing the locals out? Where do visitors to Maui, Kauai and the Big Island stay when they’ve “been there, done that” in Kihei, Princeville and Kona?