Maui will be dealing with the aftermath of a catastrophe of epic proportions for a long time. The physical damage to Maui is in Lahaina, with West Maui (including Kaanapali) being cut off from tourism until further notice. However, the 109 square miles of West Maui comprise just 15% of the island’s 735 square miles.
But there’s another type of disaster that’s looming, and it is a financial one.; Maui island is, whether you like it or not, highly reliant on tourism continuing unabated.
With 85% of the island not damaged, many visitors and hotels are left wondering.
How to move forward with trip planning and reservations is at the top of everyone’s thoughts. The rest of Maui has hotels and vacation rentals open that can welcome visitors when the time is right. But having said that, they are impacted by what happened and by every decision that gets made.
The state initially asked all visitors to leave Maui after the Lahaina fire. And now hotels and vacation rentals in South Maui (Kihei and Wailea), Central Maui (Kahului), Upcountry Maui, and East Maui (Hana) are wondering how long they have to sit with open availability.
Initially, the state urged visitors to leave Maui following the Lahaina fire.
But that has since changed. There has been no official confirmation of a return to Maui travel, but the governor stated on Facebook that Maui needs visitors to return, and you have called for it in countless comments.
Hindsight will be great in evaluating whether the decisions made were the best ones, and will help both in preventing and mitigating future disasters. What’s done is done, but some are seeing the call by Lieutenant Governor Luke for all visitors to leave as unnecessarily drastic, and ill-advised. We saw this weekend in Honolulu an enormous number of people who reported moving there after being evacuated from Maui last week. The crowding was very noticeable everywhere.
The need for tourism employment to return is becoming critical.
It is ultimately a personal decision for the visitor about when to return, and visitors will need to decide for themselves. But here are some things to keep in mind for the moment, and over the next weeks:
West Maui is off-limits until further notice, and we don’t have information about when that will change. Placards are required for entry into West Maui and are only available to full-time residents and critical personnel.
Shelters are still open on Maui because of so many people who have no place to live. These people need housing before tourism can be fully restored.
The official death count will no doubt climb higher in the coming days. 500 or more people have probably perished. This is devastating to all of Maui because everyone is highly connected. There needs to be time to heal and we don’t even know when the full impact of the fire will be known.
Haleakala National Park will reopen on August 16. That’s a good sign for things moving forward in the near future.
Is island-wide infrastructure capacity constrained?
We have heard that yes, it is, but have also heard that no, it isn’t. For example, a number of comments have mentioned shortages of diapers and other necessities at Maui stores. Please confirm if you know about that.
BoH comments highlight the many differing points of view on resuming Maui travel:
“We are the ones donating our time money and resources locally to help the effort. But if you take away our income then we cannot sustain that effort or ourselves. The balance is no travel to West Maui for now and let the resorts there house the displaced. Let the rest of the island sustain the economy. The reality is that getting money from the state or FEMA takes months to years.”
Susan: “What about us? We need to make a living too! How can we survive if again the tourist trade is interrupted by an unforeseen event that in this case doesn’t even affect us?” I say come to the south side. Kihei is fine. Wailea is fine. It’s up to you to make your own decision.”
Seth said, “I live on Maui and work in the customer service industry in a management position, Southern Maui. To all those asking, if there are available rooms to book in Kihei and Wailea, or you already have reservations, please come. With a lack of business, I will not be able to justify fully staffing as usual. It’s a business and operating for a loss means closing down, causing further job loss. With fewer shifts to go around, the hourly workers will suffer causing a major domino effect into the inability to pay bills and their daily needs. When visiting, be respectful. Although it is your vacation and money, realize the workers have experienced tragic loss. It’s an island, we all know each other, the nightmare we are living through while trying to put on a smile and go to work, with the pictures, videos, loss of friends and families, etc is really taking a toll. But we are all doing what we need to do to get by.”
At the opposite end of the spectrum sits Julie’s comment: “People should just cancel their vacation… the people who live and work on Maui just lost everything… the airlines are honoring your plane tickets .just take the credit and go somewhere else for your vacation…. or put it on hold… all resorts and hotels should open for the residents who lost their homes. And the government should foot the bill.”
What are your thoughts about upcoming Maui vacations?