Two months following the devastating wildfires in Maui, most of West Maui will begin to reopen to visitors on Sunday, Oct. 8. The tragic wildfires killed 97 people and destroyed much of the historic town of Lahaina. The loss of life, property, cultural and historic sights, and livelihoods has led to deep sadness in those affected communities. And extreme economic losses in the aftermath of the fires continue to hurt residents who rely on tourism dollars. AAA data shows bookings to Hawaii from across the U.S. are down at least 50 percent since the wildfires in August.
“Immediately after the fires, Hawaii officials asked visitors to stay away from Maui, and many travelers chose to avoid Maui and other parts of Hawaii because they thought the entire state was impacted,” said Auto Club Corporate Communications Manager Doug Shupe. “However, Hawaii Governor Josh Green and tourism leaders are now inviting visitors back to West Maui and other areas of the island which were not impacted by the fires.”
According to UHERO, The Economic Research Organization at the University of Hawaii, the number of visitors to Maui dropped nearly 75 percent after the fires, causing a loss of at least 13 million dollars each day to Maui’s economy. Economists say the fires also severely impacted employment on the island because the fires destroyed nearly all the businesses and jobs in Lahaina. In other parts of Maui, local businesses have struggled to keep workers due to lower visitor numbers.
Most of Maui, including South Maui, North Maui, and East Maui, has remained open for tourism since the fires. Beginning October 8, West Maui accommodations will begin to reopen to visitors once again as well. The town of Lahaina, however, will remain closed until further notice.
Economists believe the reopening of West Maui will restart tourism in the region, but recovery will be gradual due to lingering reluctance of some travelers. However, many locals and government officials invite visitors to return to help with the island’s economic recovery.
If you have plans to travel to Maui this fall or winter, AAA recommends travelers to:
- Remember people are grieving, and be respectful at all times
- Don’t take videos or photos of people in moments of sorrow or of people’s destroyed property
- Avoid inappropriate remarks around people facing hardship
- Obey law enforcement and local leaders’ orders to stay away from Lahaina, which remains closed
- Tip well to help local residents who are working to get back on their feet
- Consider volunteering during your visit to the island – Hands On Maui – County of Maui Volunteer Center or for other opportunities please visit Maui Nui Strong
The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority encourages tourists to mālama (care for) Maui by visiting mindfully. Many on the island are grateful for the outpouring of support for Maui from around the world and are letting potential visitors know that respectful travel is welcomed and encouraged now more than ever.
“We ask that visitors practice patience, compassion and aloha when coming to Maui,” said Hawai‘i Tourism Authority Chief Brand Officer Kalani Ka‘anā‘anā. “The best way to support Maui in its recovery is for travelers to continue with their Maui vacation this fall and don’t cancel those trips. Maui’s economy is dependent on a robust visitor industry and there is still plenty to see and do while here that is away from Lahaina. While you’re on vacation here, buy local, eat at local restaurants and enjoy the many great activities and attractions located across Maui.”
Travelers considering or planning a trip to the Aloha State can speak with AAA travel advisors in their local branch office or visit AAA.com/Travel.