Maui Layoffs Underway With Tourism Crash After Fires

Maui Layoffs Underway Following Tourism Crash

The state Department of Labor was notified of revealing layoffs that say a lot about the state of Maui tourism. This happened after the Lahaina fire triggered a shock wave in Maui travel.

The latest and most visible layoff relates directly to steep Maui tourism decline.

As required by the Hawaii Department of Labor, the largest laundry on Maui announced a significant reduction in force. Maui Linen Supply will permanently lay off 179 employees, comprising 17 drivers, 157 cleaning workers, and 5 managers. Laundries here in Hawaii primarily serve the hotel and vacation rental industry. This layoff means that hotels are cutting back on laundry due to the dramatic decline in occupancy.

It has reported that guest occupancy on Maui is at its lowest point since Covid, and up to two-thirds of South Maui hotel and vacation rental units are vacant. We’ll be able to confirm that through state data reporting shortly.

“The south side of Maui is wide open. Tragically, right now, because of the earlier message, tourism is not coming in there.” — BOH editors’ friend Jerry Gibson, president of the Hawaii Hotel Alliance said.

The state’s poor messaging sent Maui into an unending economic tailspin.

In the aftermath of the unfathomable Lahaina fire, there began a massive downhill spiral in tourism on the remaining 85% of Maui that was not directly impacted by the fire tragedy.

Initially, the state asked all visitors to leave Maui and did not invite them to return. Just days later, however, the state rescinded its widespread admonitions and began asking most Maui visitors to return. The state then only asked that visitors refrain from returning to West Maui until after October 17.

The cascading economic problems do not appear to be stopping even following the state’s clarifying messages, which stated specifically that visitors should only “refrain from going to West Maui (including Lahaina, Nāpili, Kāʻanapali, and Kapalua).”

Furthermore, while the state requests no visitors to West Maui for the next 45 days, even that is not strictly prohibited. It has resulted in even further confusion. In part because the road there is open to everyone, and businesses are returning.

An example of understandable visitor confusion includes these comments:

“We had a trip to Maui booked for early October, but canceled on the advice of so many Hawaiians and government officials on social media telling us it would be disrespectful to come to the island at this time. Now we’re getting a 180 from Maui government officials, Hawaiian Airlines, etc. And still, there’s a small but very vocal group of Hawaiians on social media saying do not come; we need to heal. If you’re part of the ‘tourist come back to Maui group,’ your message has been drowned out by the ‘don’t come group.’ Also, resorts that are still taking reservations are charging as much or more today as the pre-fire. Might want to get them on board with your ‘book a last-minute trip to Maui to save us’ message.”

“We are booked in Kahana for early October. We read that the road is open. Maui wants visitors. Then you say…that West Maui is closed until at least October 17. Should we rebook for October 17? Is that date guaranteed?”

Neither airline sales nor overpriced accommodations have helped.

While there has been much interest in airfare sales that emanated in the past week from Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Southwest Airlines, those, too, appear to have been inadequate to change the current direction of Maui tourism. There have also received repeated complaints that instead of hotels and vacation rentals making it more affordable to visit now, in fact, overall already high prices have just climbed once again.

Confusing messaging meets anti-visitor sentiment.

The things visitors are hearing from a myriad of sources imply that Maui may not be ready to receive visitors. It also has included warnings that visitors should not expect to be treated normally on Maui during such an unbelievably challenging time.

Visitors reasonably want to have an enjoyable vacation and support tourism on Maui, all at the same time. It’s a double-edged sword, where nothing that visitors do seems like the right thing. And therein may lie the answer to just why visitors aren’t returning to South Maui.

There is also long-standing dissatisfaction among many on Maui regarding over-tourism. That was a significant issue before and after Covid, and is again being heard loudly following the devastating Lahaina fire. It is yet another source of confusion among visitors who wonder if they are wanted.


Are you returning to Maui this fall?

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169 thoughts on “Maui Layoffs Underway Following Tourism Crash”

  1. For anyone who is on the fence about coming to Maui … don’t be. My family and I are here now. We have been met with Grace and Aloha by at least 2 people who have lost everything. They both said – we need people to come so we won’t lose our jobs. We know life has to move on. Everything is open now, including the Hyatt Regency which are still hosting Red Cross, Fema and displaced people. Unfortunately, the Sheraton is not open and most likely will not be until the first of the year.

  2. We are coming to Maui next year. We weren’t sure after the fire. We received an email from the condo we rented. It said please come,we are open. We know it will be different than previous times,but are really wanting to be there.

  3. I’m afraid Maui has lost me as a visitor. Life is too short to put up with the nonsense coming out of the Governor’s office and a few but loud locals who don’t want tourists at all. I don’t understand their attitude since most of the money coming into Maui comes from tourists. Now, most of the money coming in is from the state in the form of welfare.

    1. For the past 60+ years … what’s currently coming out of Hawai’i and local government as a result of the Lahaina tragedy has become the “Hawai’ian Way” … especially when looking at the bureaucratic side of the “Ohana-House” …

      The playbook:
      Destroy traditional industries. Followed by massive job losses. Charge more for goods and services. Raise taxes. Followed by more business/job losses. Increase welfare. More poverty, crime, congestion. And then wonder “how did this all happen ??”

      I’ve lived in what truly was “Paradise” off/on since ‘da ’50s and that’s been my first-hand experience w/ what was once beautiful and what I once loved — and still do love, truth be told. Aue …

  4. Booked to the big island in early October. Luckily we are flexible, unlike most who travel, and are watching closely. We would love to bring our tourism $$$ to Maui, but currently the lodging isn’t affordable. Keeping our fingers crossed that will change and we can hop on an interisland flight and visit an island we love and show some support to Maui.

  5. I have been to Hawaii for about 10 vacations Always loved the Islands, Maui was my favorite, been there 7 times. I was riding to the airport ,going back home .As I sat in the back seat of the cab with the window rolled down we stopped for traffic. Two local men standing next to my cab said to me, “Did you enjoy your trip to Maui?” I said, “Yes” .One man replied sarcastically “Good, now go home”.I believe he meant it, and expressed the views of other locals. That might be the thing I remember most about my last trip to Maui.

    1. Hawaiian people can be so ugly , lived there and it was something you had to deal with on a daily basis. I had a good friend who lived in Maui.
      We grew up together in NJ he was a police officer in Maui and he had five boys who went to to local school and once a year they had
      Beat up holey day. I thought he was crazy until he told me look it up on YouTube,I did. He was right both girls and boys would beat up none Hawaiians. It may still be on the web .

  6. So much to unpack here. Been to Maui a dozen times. Loved it there.
    But…. The trust and the safety of the tourist has been lost. Just watched a video of locals chasing tourists off the beach, homeless encampments everywhere. State officials not turning sirens on because he thought people would escape into the fire. Not turning water on until he OK’d it with indeginous farmers. Police rerouting tourists back to the inferno. Just went to the Grand Wailea website. Their lowest price room is currently at $901.00 a night. Albeit it’s a 5 star hotel but I wonder if it ever crossed there minds to make it affordable in wake of the tragedy. Sad times.

  7. Before Covid, my wife and I had visited Maui three times and the state for a total of 10 visits. After many reports about the damage caused by overtourism I had decided to stop visiting Maui and possibly any of the Islands; certainly the high expenses of a Hawaii vacation made the decision a little easier.
    Upon reading this article and several others, reporting the hardships caused by the reduced visitor numbers, my wife have booked a trip to Maui in October. As before, we will be respectful visitors. It’s still relatively expensive but Hawaii is a special place.


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