Annual visitors to Maui have surpassed 3 million for the first time since records began, drawing fears of over-tourism to the Hawaiian island.
The latest visitor statistics from The Hawaii Tourism Authority, published in The Maui News, reveal a 5.4 per cent increase from the previous year.
Annual visitors to Maui have only dipped below 2 million once since 1990 - that was in 2009, with 1.8 million visitors.
Total visitor numbers to Hawaii soared past 10 million last year.
Visitor spending in Maui also hit a new high, reaching NZ$7.8 billion dollars last year, a 2.4 per cent increase from 2018.
But not everyone is happy about the increase in visitors, as fears of overtourism take the shine off the economic boost.
Rod Antone, Maui Hotel and Lodging Association executive director, told The Maui News the tourism authority's figures only provide a snapshot.
"The other part of the story is that the industry, government and members of the community are all working together to help manage tourism and educate our visitors," Antone said.
"There are a lot of efforts going on, from trying to get rules for visitors in every hotel room, to working with rental car agencies to shuttle visitors to their hotels where some of them can rent vehicles there, to placing educational videos in the airport."
For Maui locals, the increase in visitors has an impact on their day-to-day activities.
Courtney Chargin, who works in the local hotel industry, told The Maui News her commute to work now takes longer because of the increased number of vehicles on the roads.
"It's good for us but it's not," she said. "It's a hard toss up. It feels like (tourists) run us really thin. All their funds go to other things besides giving us raises and whatnot."
Council woman Kymberly Pine has been among those calling for action on how the state deals with the increase in visitors.
She told Hawaii News Now last year if they don't get a grasp on the situation now, it could hurt them in the long run.
"We're getting to a point that if we don't as a city get involved in managing our tourism better then the residents are going to start turning against our no. 1 economy," she said in October.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority figures show visitor days to Maui increased 3 per cent to 66,414 in 2019.
The island's busiest month was December, which had 75,884 average daily visitors.
Albert Perez, executive director of Maui Tomorrow Foundation, told The Maui News the island is becoming an "overtouristed" place and his nonprofit group opposes increases in visitor accommodations.
"There's got to be some recognition that we are on an island and it has a carrying capacity," Perez said. "There are only so many miles of beaches. In fact, our beaches are shrinking from sea-level rise."
"We need to ask ourselves, 'At what point is it going to be too much — is it 4 million (visitors annually)? What about 30 million? There's got to be some recognition that we are on an island and it has a carrying capacity. There are only so many miles of beaches. In fact, our beaches are shrinking from sea-level rise," Perez said.
- With additional Associated Press reporting