Travel advisors were helping clients in Hawaii as evacuations
continued from deadly wildfires that blazed on the western side of Maui
and on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) said Wednesday night that
nonessential travel to Maui was "strongly discouraged" as wildfires
affected the areas around Lahaina, Kihei and Upcountry Maui.
Lahaina, a popular vacation destination and one of Hawaii's most
historic cities, was devastated by the fires. It's feared that the fire
consumed much of historic Front Street, home to restaurants, bars,
stores and what is believed to be the United States' largest banyan
Visitors currently in Maui on nonessential travel were being asked to
leave the island. The HTA also encouraged visitors with Maui travel
plans within the next few weeks to consider rescheduling.
"In the days and weeks ahead, our collective resources and attention
must be focused on the recovery of residents and communities that were
forced to evacuate their homes and businesses," the HTA said. "Visitors
who have travel plans to West Maui in the coming weeks are encouraged to
consider rescheduling their travel plans for a later time."
Visitors with plans to stay in other parts of Maui or in the Mauna
Kea resort area of the Big Island should contact their hotels to learn
of any impacts to their plans, the HTA said.
Travel to other parts of Hawaii Island, as well as Kauai, Oahu, Molokai and Lanai, has not been affected.
The Hawaii Convention Center on Oahu has been opened an assistance
center for evacuees from Maui and was preparing to accept up to 4,000
people, according to reports.
How travellers and advisors can help
There are communications challenges at the moment, especially on
Maui, according to Ilihia Gionson, HTA's public affairs officer. To travel advisors,
he said, "If clients have travel planned in the next couple of weeks,
please get in touch with wherever they're meant to stay."
If an advisor is unable to get in touch with the property, that is likely a signal to encourage clients to change their plans.
But, while certain areas of Maui and the Big Island have been
affected, the rest of Hawaii is unaffected and ready to welcome
visitors, Gionson said.
"We kind of saw during Covid what can happen if travel ceases," he
said. "It's an economic challenge. People lose jobs. And there's a
ripple effect to that. At the Hawaii Tourism Authority, we walk this
very fine line of ensuring that the businesses that are able to remain
open can accept customers. We don't want to dissuade people from that,
while balancing that with the very real need for recovery and focus on
community in places like West Maui."
Source: Travel Weekly