LIHU‘E — With 40% of car rental inventory down and a surge in visitor arrivals, finding ways to get around the island for visitors has become a more pressing issue than it was in the past.
The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority is providing the county with $100,000 for a private-public partnership for a county-wide shuttle.
The county is managing the funding for the program, a spokesperson said Wednesday, but industry leaders are finalizing the shuttle details.
The county’s Office of Economic Director Nalani Brun said the county is more focused on the long-term ways visitors travel around the island.
“It is really important that people understand that the county is not creating a shuttle, the industry entrepreneurs are creating a shuttle. We have requested funds from HTA to support that effort because we have learned in the past that there are ‘amenities’ that shuttles will need to go long term, like signage,” Brun said. “We don’t want to interfere in the private marketplace. We just want to be there to give our support to having the shuttle programs stay.”
And navigating this hurdle has been singled-out for years within Kaua‘i General Plan, Tourism Strategic Plan, Kaua‘i Economic Recovery Strategy Team, and Destination Management Action Plan.
“It is an obvious pain that the community feels when there is prolonged traffic. County teams and partners have been trying to figure out how to get this to happen for years but it is like stopping a moving train running at high speed,” Brun said. “The pandemic has slowed the train down and given us a window to try to support another way to have our visitors move around.”
Too, last year, when the pandemic first struck, Mayor Derek Kawakami enlisted the assistance and help of community members to develop economic recovery goals and recommendations. One of these was establishing “a new paradigm for visitor travel.”
One of the recommendations for this was shuttles from the airports to resort areas and shuttles within the Visitor Destination Area, between resorts, shopping centers and beaches.
Transportation company Polynesian Adventure already operates shuttles on the island, including a new $20 Aloha Shuttle option that covers Po‘ipu to Koloa, which runs daily. This shuttle services resorts and shopping centers with stops at the Grand Hyatt, Po‘ipu Shopping Village, Sheraton, The Shops at Kukui‘ula and Old Koloa Town. This is a different service than the regular charter adventures and tours the company hosts.
Brun said the exact way the money will be spent is “yet to be determined.”
“The $100,000 is the total funding not counting the hours we’ve brainstormed with partners over the years trying to figure out a way to help things along and be ready for this moment,” Brun said. “It is important the entrepreneurs take the lead. We just come in to help push things along and are unsure what that will look like at this time.”
This shuttle, which is pegged to start with a to-be-announced date next month, is being developed to cover areas north, east and south.
“This is not the County’s program. This is a partnership of stakeholders and entrepreneurs that are going to solve this problem,” Brun said. “It’s the only way it can survive past the current crisis which is what the community wants, and the county serves the community.”
At this time, transportation partners are working on permitting, Brun said.
Source: The Garden Island