With massive cancellations and occupancy plummeting, hospitality
leaders in Hawaii are putting the word out that hotels and resorts
untouched by the West Maui wildfires remain open and eager to welcome
"We're trying to be very affirmative about the fact that with the
exception of West Maui, the rest of Maui is open," said Mufi Hannemann,
CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association.
He added that while there were some initial "missteps" in terms of
the state's cohesive messaging, state officials and other key
stakeholders "from the governor to the mayor to the Hawaii Tourism
Authority," have since taken a unanimous stance when it comes to
encouraging travel to other parts of island, including Wailea, Kihei,
Makena and Hana.
This unified front comes as Maui experiences a stark drop in tourists in the wake of the devastating fires.
"We are seeing cancellations across the board," Hannemann said. "Last
we checked, Maui had dipped to about 57% occupancy, while statewide,
we're at about 80% occupancy. And, obviously, the number of passenger
arrivals also has taken a steep decrease. It's a very challenging time."
Lisa Paulson, executive director of the Maui Hotel & Lodging
Association, is similarly sounding the alarm over the island's sudden
"We're very concerned, because the rental cars are already piling up
at the airport, just like they did when the pandemic first started,"
said Paulson. "I've talked to a couple of general managers, and they're
seeing massive cancellations and very low occupancy. And planes are
flying in, but they're not full."
Soon, fewer planes will fly in. United reduced its service to the island by about half for September and October.
The stakes are high for Maui, which has an outsize economic
dependence on tourism, Hannemann said. The Maui Economic Development
Board estimates that approximately 70% of every dollar in Maui is
generated either directly or indirectly by the visitor industry.
"Maui is the county most dependent on tourism, so it will be
devastating if people don't steadily come back," Hannemann said. "It'd
be naive to presume that everybody in Hawaii is pro-tourism, but this is
a very different environment that we're operating under. We're seeing
more local residents, on the news and on social media, saying, 'I need
to go back to work.' We need to take a balanced approach while we
Paulson similarly underscored tourism's crucial role. "So many
livelihoods depend on that economic driver," said Paulson. "Our hotels
and resorts are ready to welcome people, and I think the overwhelming
message needs to be about responsible, respectful tourism."
Hotels are housing evacuees
The Outrigger Kaanapali Beach Resort is one of the West Maui hotels that has provided shelter to evacuees.
West Maui – which includes hard-hit Lahaina as well as nearby Napili,
Kaanapali and Kapalua – remains off-limits to tourists, with Hawaii
Gov. Josh Green issuing an emergency proclamation strongly discouraging
all nonessential travel to the region through 17 October.
Properties in Napili, Kaanapali and Kapalua were generally spared any
structural damage, with many resuming operations in order to shelter
their own displaced employees and accommodate evacuees, first responders
and emergency workers.
As of 22 August, Paulson estimated that hotels across Kaanapali and
Kapalua were housing around 3,000 evacuees and frontline personnel.
According to a state press release, the Royal Lahaina Resort in
Kaanapali was the first hotel to receive survivors, while Paulson
confirmed that the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, Hyatt Regency Maui
Resort and Spa, Kaanapali Alii Resort and Kaanapali Beach Club have also
offered emergency accommodations.
Additionally, a spokesperson for Outrigger Resorts & Hotels
reported that the Outrigger Kaanapali Beach Resort and Outrigger Honua
Kai Resort & Spa have both made large room blocks available to
evacuees as part of the Hawaii Fire Relief Housing Program, with Hawaii
Vacation Condos by Outrigger accommodations expected to soon join the
"Everybody has been pitching in and assisting with recovery efforts,"
said Paulson. "We are taking care of displaced residents and our team
Hannemann, meanwhile, expressed some concern over the potential
financial hardship ahead for West Maui properties currently engaged in
"They're doing their best to keep everybody on the payroll and
maintain their benefits, but after a while, it's going to be very
challenging, especially if they can't open up anytime soon," Hannemann
said. "So, we're going to be turning over every rock of federal
assistance to see how we can get some money to all these properties.
They're going to need money to keep people on the payroll and working."
Source: Travel Weekly