DestinationsTravellers urged to stay away from Maui for now, but rest of Hawaii is unaffected.

Hawaii’s ‘largest natural disaster in history’ prompts travel warning

Lahaina, on the Hawaiian island of Maui, was devastated by wildfires. Seen here is the Lahaina Square Shopping Center area, taken on 25 June (left) and 9 August (right).
Lahaina, on the Hawaiian island of Maui, was devastated by wildfires. Seen here is the Lahaina Square Shopping Center area, taken on 25 June (left) and 9 August (right). Photo Credit: Maxar Technologies

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 tree.

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

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