A recent study by the Hawaii Tourism Authority showed that Hawaii has an estimated 22,338 vacation rental units advertised on websites like VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals By Owner) and AirBnB. Maui County had the most in the state with over 8,000 vacation units; Oahu has over 4,400 units. According to HTA’s CEO, Ronald Williams, the study was conducted to help the counties understand the reach of this specific market segment when making future policy decisions.
According to the study, home-based rentals represent 25 percent of all of Hawaii’s lodging units. Hotels account for 50 percent. These new numbers will most likely spark controversy over neighborhoods with these units. There have been community outcries for lawmakers to address this issue. Online booking sites have made it easier to list and book rooms with no government regulation. Vacation rentals are different from Bed-n-Breakfast establishments where they are not required to be registered with the state.
Currently, there is no regulation on vacation rentals. Therefore, anyone can advertise online to rent out rooms or units. The issue is these owners of vacation rentals are not paying their share of fees and taxes. Lawmakers are working with industry leaders to propose legislation to account for vacation rentals and enforce them. Some residential advocacy groups like in Kailua, say these vacation rentals change the character of the neighborhood and these vacation rental owners are profiting at their expense of the communities.
Proponents for vacation rentals say the vacation rentals help the owners pay for their mortgages and taxes. It also helps small businesses in the neighborhood to create job opportunities for people to work where they live. The growth in vacation rentals is good news for the state’s number one industry because hotels cannot keep up with the demand for rooms.