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 Just days later, however, the state rescinded its widespread admonitions and began asking most Maui visitors to return.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.August-25-2023-Maui-Linen-Supply-LLC
Are you returning to Maui this fall?