I wanted to give an update on life on Maui, post-fire. It is hard to believe it’s been about 2 1/2 weeks since the devastating fire tragedy in Lahaina. It is truly difficult to wrap my mind around what exactly happened, the media coverage has been constant and heavy.
The media coverage has been frustrating actually. After the initial blunder by government officials, shutting down all of Maui, they quickly retracted. As of August 10th both the Governor and Maui County Mayor made a point of mentioning that all of Maui with exception of Lahaina is open. The way our media and social media algorithms work, that didn’t get much traction in the media.
Most visitors left Maui as quickly as they could after the fires. And honestly, Maui was reeling. Many are still reeling. The West side had to leave, there was no power, water, cell service or internet. The South side was fine, but in the fray many still chose to leave or cancel.
Maui’s second disaster
At the beginning of Covid the State restricted all travel to Hawaii for 7 months, completely shutting down the visitor industry. During this time we realized just how dependent Maui is on tourism as we coped with 32% unemployment in Maui County. This number did not include all the self-employed, mom-and-pop shops etc which were also impacted. While there was a lot of talk on diversifying the economy, it doesn’t happen overnight.
In the past two weeks the visitor industry has come to a near screeching halt. We are now in our second disaster. Visitor traffic slowed substantially, airlines started canceling some flights, rental cars are piled up in fields at the airport. Go into Costco and there are hardly any lines. Restaurants and visitor shops are pretty empty.
Life on Maui has slowed down. Some employers have temporarily furloughed their workers as they just don’t have work for them. Property management cleaning companies, restaurants, shops…. A few stores have temporarily shortened their hours, a couple restaurants (Mulligans and Hailimaile General Store that I know of) have closed for a month until more visitors return. Just for kicks, look at getting a reservation for the uber-popular Mama’s Fishhouse. The 9-month wait is a thing of the past. For now at least.
What happens next?
I think visitors will return. September will slowly start to ramp up and by October things will be busier again. I could be wrong. For the sake of Maui’s economy and all our friends and neighbors, I hope I’m right.
How will this affect you?
If you have a trip scheduled in the next month or two, don’t cancel! Come and enjoy the slower pace of life on Maui while it lasts. Drive the Road to Hana, make those sunrise reservations, visit all your favorite restaurants, enjoy the beach, shop the stores.
If you booked your rental car a while ago, revisit your booking. If you didn’t prepay, you may be able to rebook for substantial savings. Check your activities, luaus, or restaurant reservations and revisit them. Be flexible. Some businesses on the West side will need to cancel, particularly if they were located in Lahaina. Others may need to change your booking.
Be respectful. Please don’t go gawk at the damage. Don’t stop and photograph it. There are enough photos on the internet. For those who have lost everything, this is really raw. It will remain raw for a long time. Show compassion. No, you don’t need to feel guilty for coming – you are helping so many others by giving them employment. Just stay out of the affected areas for now and enjoy the rest of Maui.
How can you help?
If you would like, volunteer. Check in closer to your stay for current volunteer opportunities. Friends of mine have been volunteering with the Maui Humane Society and World Central Kitchen. I’ve been shopping for and packing backpacks for displaced school kids. But by the time you come, there will probably be different needs.
You are of course welcome to donate. Please do your research, whenever there is a disaster, there are also scams. Find a cause you believe in and support it. It’s not expected though. Just come, shop local, eat out, tip well. By supporting the economy you are helping all those working to help their friends and family.