Maui Financial Ruin Next As Visitors Plummet/Unemployment Skyrockets

Visitors have heeded the state’s original admonition after the Lahaina fire to either leave or not visit Maui. Unfortunately for small businesses, hotels, and employees, visitors do not appear to be returning. As we reported, there’s been mixed messaging if Maui is open for travel when only 15% of the island was impacted. It’s left many visitors uncertain about what to do at many levels.

Unemployment soared nearly 10-fold in the first week after the fire.

Even before the full impact of the fire and the visitor exodus from Maui were known, the Hawaii Department of Labor reported that Maui unemployment for the latest week hit nearly 7,000, compared with the 700-800 that has been the norm. And that is just the beginning. Businesses large and small report that they are just in the first phase of layoffs necessary to address the sharp decline in tourism.

The staggering complexity of multiple tragedies.

While Maui remains in the early stages of the aftermath of the Lahaina fire, much more difficulty is being revealed. For now, West Maui remains cut off from tourism, while Lahaina itself is gone for years to come. The return of the West Maui tourism industry, which is vital to the area, and all of Maui, Hawaii travel, is not yet known. West Maui includes the resort communities of Kaanapali and Kapalua in addition to Lahaina.

The fire, initial news about greater Maui, and resurging anti-visitor sentiment combine.

These are together about to wreak havoc of another type. Following the fire, the Hawaii Lodging &Tourism Association reported that Maui travel was down so dramatically that four out of every five visitors expected didn’t arrive.

West Maui represents just 15% of the island’s footprint.

Those 109 square miles make up a small percentage of the 735 square miles that is Maui. There is no downplaying its importance in every sense, including the enormous tragedy associated with the still unfolding human loss.

Maui businesses are imperiled.

After visitors were shipped wholesale from the entire island, the return to normal tourism is challenged. Other than West Maui, all of Maui is open and wants visitors. But if visitors don’t return in volume soon, businesses, from mom-and-pop stores to hotels and restaurants, will face the inevitable together with their employees.

“In the moment,” the state asked all visitors to leave Maui.

After the Lahaina fire, the state understandably went into complete shock. Only time will tell if the decisions made were right, and even then, they were likely the best thinking officials could muster in a moment of total calamity.

But now, businesses in South Maui areas, including Kihei and Wailea, Central Maui, including Kahului, Upcountry Maui, and East Maui, including Hana, are in the process of another evolving catastrophe, one of financial ruin.

Maui wants its visitors back.

“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.”

Beat of Hawaii.

The need for Maui tourism to return.

It is ultimately a personal decision for visitors about when to return to Maui. Only West Maui is off-limits for now, and the area will become accessible soon. However, there is no guidance about when that might be. The infrastructure has yet to be restored or become stable, and many West Maui accommodations are being used to house those displaced by the fire. But that leaves the rest of Maui now open and wanting visitors.

Photo credit US Army National Guard Sgt. Matthew Foster.

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91 thoughts on “Maui Financial Ruin Next As Visitors Plummet/Unemployment Skyrockets”

  1. This is just devastating for the island. With the power issue and tourism down significantly I wonder how the island of Maui will survive. How long can residents hold-out before they move on to other islands or even the mainland for jobs

  2. The mixed messages concerning west maui are creating Kaos. We were scheduled at the Sands of Kahana but we had to cancel due to the governor’s proclamation. We had to cancel, flight, cars and our time share. Now we see Maui wants us back. We could only reschedule for May 2024. Getting our refund from the Airlines will take forever. Flights in May of 2024 are double of what we had reserved. Surely we will miss Lahiana. We used to go there daily on our vacation. Yes we’re extremely saddened by the loses. I just hope the govenor makes up his mind. Maui is going to need our mainlanders dollars. We we’re willing to keep our vacation at the end of September but the gov said no.

  3. Some locals openly hate the tourists. They seem to believe money falls from the sky. They’re close: it arrives by plane (rarely, by boat.)

  4. Lahaina is historically known, as far as I’ve been taught anyways, to be a port of hospitality. Aloha means “hello” as well as “goodbye” I think so please come tourists, like usual. Trade your money for a Hawaiian good time and we are all happy. Don’t let this fire thing get us down. Come on over. E como mai

  5. We landed on Maui the day the fire started. We have a condo in Sugar Beach and thought the request for All tourists to leave was ridiculous. There were no shortages in South Maui and utilities were working. We stayed the full week because we knew the local businesses needed support. I specifically asked some locals about this and they all recognized that not having tourists would exacerbate the tragedy. In that process, we found a displaced family that we could put up in our place. Maui no ka oi.

    1. Mahalo for staying. We love visitors. Our beloved banyan tree was a gift from a visitor, the king of Africa. So we love different cultures and people and hope you come here and love us back. Don’t let this fire ruin everything


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