Do Hawaiian zipline operators need licenses? A bill proposed earlier this year says yes. Hawaii's Office of the Auditor released a report this month that says probably not.
Speaking to Hawaii News Now, State Auditor Marion Higa said, "You can't protect everybody from all risk…The few injuries we could get data on were not so much because of traveling on the zipline, its [sic] more people tripping when they're on the ground."
Hawaii has 22 zipline businesses, the first of which opened in 2002, providing adventure and excitement to an estimated 480,000 to 700,000 people annually. From the report:
According to legislators we interviewed, owners and operators of existing zipline and canopy tours in Hawai'i are the main proponents of [regulation]… None of the representatives of the zipline and canopy tour industry whom we interviewed were able to provide documented evidence of harm to the public…other than inherent risks their customers willingly accept (p. 15).
…Evidence for abusive practices is slim, anecdotal, and mostly alleged by industry members against their competitors within the industry (p. 14).
…Industry members explained to us that zipline and canopy tour operators depend heavily on referrals from intermediaries such as hotel activity desks and wholesalers. To protect themselves from legal liability, these intermediaries require being added as an insured party to an operator's insurance policy. In addition, no landowner will allow use of the property, nor will a bank provide financing, without being covered by the operator's liability insurance. Because insurance is necessary and requires annual inspections, the industry is basically self-regulating (p. 18).
…Before issuing a policy, insurance companies require ziplines and canopy tours to meet [industry] standards, which include safety inspections upon installation and every year thereafter (p. 5).
Moreover, officials with the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DILR)—the agency that would have been given authority over the industry—are not on board. They're pretty busy; the DILR already has a multi-year backlog of over 5,000 elevators it is statutorily obligated to inspect.
Some 11 states regulate zipline operators, but, except for Florida, none of them require anything beyond paperwork documenting insurer inspection reports. The DLIR, however, speculates that in Hawaii the "use of private sector inspectors may be subject to legal challenges. In 1997, the Hawai'i Supreme Court in Konno v. County of Hawai'i, [banned the] privatization of services customarily and historically provided by civil servants."