Closing West Maui through October 17 is befuddling a range of stakeholders and others as is becoming obvious. So just what is needed next?
We are receiving countless messages from West Maui business owners, employees, and residents, as well as visitors with plans to come to West Maui. They are neither clear nor comfortable with this week’s edict from Governor Josh Green, which admonition was reiterated by the state’s Hawaiian Tourism Authority.
The decision to close West Maui, including all of the areas north of Lahaina that were not impacted, at first appeared to be a step forward, at least given the complete lack of information that preceded it. The Governor and HTA, however, picked October 17 as the first day West Maui can officially open. But businesses there are saying they are ready to receive visitors and cannot survive without financial aid and returning to full operation much sooner than that.
Here’s what the governor and HTA had to say:
“No one can travel to West Maui right now. We will share when that is possible again. Only returning residents and authorized emergency relief workers should come here (West Maui) now. But all of the other areas of Maui… and the rest of Hawaii are safe.”Hawaii Governor Josh Green 8/21/23.
Visitors to refrain from going to West Maui (including Lahaina, Nāpili, Kāʻanapali, and Kapalua) as a means of respect to the people and places that have been lost in Lahaina during this devastating tragedy. The impacted area of Lahaina remains off-limits to the public as the search and recovery efforts continue.”Hawaii Tourism Authority 8/21/23.
Feedback from BOH readers following “clarification” shows their bewilderment.
There were unending comments we received expressing both confusion and concern. We are presenting some here for you to read and comment about.
“No reason was given for “avoiding” West Maui area that was not impacted by the fire. This Governor has already “suppressed” multiple laws passed by the elected Legislature. Guess the tourist industry of West Maui (excluding the disaster areas) will be devastated by this seemingly arbitrary edict. Something fishy.”
“Whalers has reopened and restaurants are reopening one by one. Resort areas of West Maui are open. Napili and Times market are open. Dollies is open. Pizza Paradiso is open. Java Coffee. McDonald’s and more. Road is open with no restrictions. Please come.”
“The Marriott is cancelling reservations through September 30 right now but not October. Westin is also canceling September. As far as businesses in the area, some are open, and others are not. Whalers Village is open, but not all shops in Whalers Village are open. I am not there, but I have been reading as I am also supposed to go to Kaanapali in October.”
“It is still confusing about West Maui north of Lahaina. We have a timeshare in Kaanapali in October, and we have no idea if Whalers Village or Napili, or Kapalua is accepting tourists. I hear the word discouraged but are the roads closed to tourists going past Lahaina up more north?”
“Thousands of people are going to be financially devastated. Most are just one paycheck away from financial disaster, and there is No One helping monetarily (Maui residents are on their own for their income apart from those who are eligible for unemployment benefits which max at $3000 a month). Please know that the HTA and Josh Green are incorrect and not thinking clearly about peoples’ livelihoods. The road is open, and businesses are opening.”
“Kahana is untouched by the fire and is open. There is no restriction for those driving into Kahana or resort areas. The HTA messaging is erroneous, and the HTA also gave a lot of false information during Covid and kept Hawaii shut down needlessly for too long.”
“The messaging by the HTA is wrong. The road is open to West Maui. There is no checkpoint requiring residents only. Power and water are restored, and the Internet is also restored in most areas. Grocery stores are operating at normal hours (Napili Market/Times Market), and many restaurants are reopening as well. Golf courses are scheduling openings for September. The HTA is not handing out money to those who work in the resorts located on the West Side who are currently on unemployment insurance. Please do not spread this misinformation which is financially devastating to thousands of people who have lost their loved ones, homes, and now their jobs. There are also hundreds if not thousands, of immigrants who cannot get UI and rely on their jobs fueled by tourism. Reverse your messaging and encourage people to come to Maui Now!”
“The Governor’s proclamation doesn’t say West Maui is off limits, and in fact, it is not closed to visitors (the road is right now very specifically “open to all motorists” from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.), and there is nothing I am aware of but unjustified guilt trips keeping anyone from visiting areas of West Maui outside of the impact zone in Lahaina. I respectfully think it’s wrong for anyone to decide, apparently arbitrarily, that people who depend on West Maui visitors for their livelihoods are required to suffer an economic catastrophe on top of the brutal loss of life and property they are already forced to somehow bear.”
“I was very disappointed to have to cancel my Maui vacation, which I had been planning and paying for since Feb. I am very sorry for the inconsolable loss to so many Hawaiians. On a much lesser scale, I and my wife were impacted too, 6 months of build-up and excitement dashed a week prior to departure; it hurt. Now they are saying come, we need you. It seems like the mishandling of this disaster is continuing.”
“Operation Hope chairman John Bryant, who is in Maui providing relief services, said that it was okay to visit areas north of Lahaina like Kaanapali and Kapalua. They wanted to support local workers who depend on restaurants and hotels north of Lahaina for their livelihood so that one crisis didn’t turn into two (the fires and then losing jobs).”
“I’m sure some want to stay away due to message confusion, respect for the grieving, etc., but I think there is also the element of forgoing what is anticipated to *not* be the perfect “vacation of a lifetime” that so many dream of when planning a trip to the Hawaiian islands. Especially when the media is out there making everyone think that the entirety of Maui is now a dystopian Armageddon. No one is talking about that aspect because it sounds selfish.”
“I have a reservation in Kaanapali just after October 17th. Should I come or should I cancel? What if the proclamation is extended, can I still come after October 17th despite travel to West Maui being “strongly discouraged” but not prohibited? I see my resort (and many others) still selling rooms from October 1st onwards right now.”
“We are devastated by the loss of lives, livelihood, and property. We got home safe, but we haven’t stopped crying. We already had reservations to go back again for a week at the end of September. Assuming Hawaiian Airlines doesn’t cancel our flight, we still plan to go back during that time and do some volunteering where needed and also lots of shopping, eating out, and generous tipping on the North West side (Times Market, Bad Ass Coffee, Java Jazz, Gazebo, Maui Fish Company, and eating at many other North West Maui restaurants).”
“We are property owners in Kahana. Kahana is 7 miles north of Lahaina. Several residents who rely on Kahana tourism have been asking us when we will have guests again. We have opened our home to a displaced Lahaina family until the end of September. Kahana and West Maui residents need you to return to their unaffected area in October. Otherwise, these locals we need to leave to find employment elsewhere.”
“I just heard that Times opened with temporary hours. Closed evenings and week-ends. Pharmacy still closed. Many others have no internet, so don’t assume they are open just because their site says so.”
“Please speak with West Maui landscapers, cleaners, restaurant owners, etc. Until financial compensation for their two months of lost wages is arranged (in one of the most expensive places in the world), a plan to shut West Maui is effectively kicking them when they’re already down.”
Please share your thoughts about what needs to happen next in West Maui.
It is looking as though the edict from Governor Green and the troubled Hawaii Tourism Authority may have missed the mark. So exactly what is needed?