A Tourist’s Card

A Tourist’s Card

Aloha!

In the September issue of the Costco Connection under the Travel section, there is an article titled “Discovering the Dominican Republic.” The article states that upon landing in the Dominican Republic, visitors must purchase a (tourism tax) Tourist Card before clearing customs. The card costs US $10 per person and must be paid in cash.

The endless possibilities for corruption with so much cash notwithstanding, I find the concept intriguing. In my recent blog post “Time to Shape Up,” I discussed how the amenities available to tourists in Maui, such as the park systems and restrooms, are old and run down, including the Kahului airport. But the cry in Hawaii is always that there’s not enough money, no matter how many tourists come.

For those of you unfamiliar, the problem comes down to the General Fund in Hawaii. It’s basically a catchment system that all money is funneled into and out of. Problems arise when one particular entity needs money or has even raised money… but it must filter first through the General Fund, and often does not land where intended. The most recent example of this is the libraries system. The Friends of the Library were consistently raising money to benefit the library system, which was then placed in the General Fund and unavailable to the library system. See the problem? I am quite
pleased that this was recently revised, and any monies from benefits and/or
fundraisers for the library will stay within the library system, where it belongs.

Which brings us to the concept of a Tourist Card. If Hawaii is consistently strapped for money, which it is, then why not institute something of this sort, which could pay for the infrastructures which the tourist’s use? For each time that a tourist checks into a nice hotel on Maui (and pays a hefty “Resort Fee” per day for the pleasure) they are also using the Maui roads, infrastructure, parks systems, and beaches. Not to mention the airport, which is badly in need of an upgrade.

As Mike and I discussed this at length, we came to realize the inherent problems with such a card: who would say where the money went, and how? Every politician would have their hand in the pot, unless some strict guidelines were in force. For instance: each island could get to keep the money that was collected from a tourist’s deplaning on that island only. The money would not go into the General Fund, but rather a Tourist Fund, per Island. Returning Hawaii residents would be exempt.  For each year’s money
collected, a pet project could be chosen: this year the roads, next year the
park restrooms, et cetera. And no one could claim that the system was unfair as far as monies collected, because the number of tourists arriving would equal thenumber of Tourist Card dollars staying on that particular island. Oahu mightcollect more money because of more tourists, but those tourists are also using the Oahu roads.

The Dominican Republic is able to monitor this because their tourists must pass through customs. In our discussion Mike and I realized the enormity of setting up such a system in Hawaii, especially where the collection point would be concerned. Collection would fall either to the airline for its passengers, or a deplaning station would have to be built and instituted, sort of a security line in reverse. Difficult yes, but not impossible, certainly.

So the question is this: as a tourist, would you be willing to pay a small fee, say $10, for a Tourist Card, if the money went strictly to amenities for tourism, or roads, on that island? And would you balk if you were to Island-hop and that $10 fee was applied to each island? What about if it was $10 at an origination point and only $2.00 if you island-hopped? Or what about $2.00 per island, period?

None of this too pricey for a honeymooning couple, perhaps, but for a family of four it could really add up. Unless the system included a way to notate the tourist’s origination point, and the tourist would not have to repay. Then we would have the neighbor Islands screaming because too many people had originated at Oahu and the dollars would not transfer (though that is changing somewhat in that the airline hubs are moving to outer islands.)

This is obviously just a rough idea. Please share your thoughts on whether or not you believe a Tourist Card could be a viable idea and whether you’d be willing to pay for one if the bugs were worked out.

And I’d like to hear any and all ideas you have in regard to same.

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Aloha, Jamaica