Months After the Lahaina Fires, Visitors Respectfully Return to the Island as Maui Tourism Recovers

Months After the Lahaina Fires, Visitors Respectfully Return to the Island as Maui Tourism Recovers

In August 2023, historic Lahaina in West Maui was devastated by a fire that destroyed the town. It left residents with unimaginable grief over the loss of lives, homes, and livelihoods where local jobs, local businesses, and the entire community rely on tourism. Maui is known for its incredible beauty found nowhere else in the world and as the island officially began welcoming visitors back in early November, Mike White, who managed two prestigious hotels on Maui for over 35 years and is a Member of the Board of Directors for the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, shared how the people of Maui are doing in the midst of recovery.

White, who was interviewed by AM Northwest at the Maui Ocean Center, said, “As you can imagine, the people of Maui are hurting. And everyone is navigating it differently. It is going to take some time to process, heal, and focus on rebuilding their lives. But our people are resilient, hard-working, and have a lot of aloha toward each other and will get through this just fine.” He added, “But it is important to realize that 85% of the jobs on Maui are either fully or partially dependent on tourism. So the return of visitors to Maui is critical to our recovery.”

Although, Lahaina remains closed to the public out of respect for the community and as debris removal and clean up efforts have started, many people do not realize it is just a small pocket of West Maui and most accommodations have reopened except for Lahaina Town proper. The vast majority of Maui was unaffected, untouched, and has remained open including Kahului, Wailuku, Kīhei, Wailea, Upcountry, and Hānaare that have been welcoming travelers.

Since so many people are looking for ways to support Maui, Mike White has some suggestions, “If you already love Maui, then we’d love to welcome you back and if you’ve never visited before, then it’s time you did and experience hiking through rainforests, walking on mountaintops, and tasting delicious local produce at a roadside farm stand. Here at the Maui Ocean Center, you can learn about Hawai‘i’s marine life including conservation initiatives aimed to protect our oceans. Supporting these local spots is the most generous way you can help Maui residents and businesses right now.”

Hawai’i Tourism Authority (HTA) wants visitors to come and enjoy all Maui has to offer and also wants them to know that they can compassionately express the aloha spirit in several ways. First, they ask for sensitivity for residents still healing from the Lahaina event and that visitors refrain from asking what they’ve been through since even a well-meaning question may be difficult for some still navigating what happened. Second, there are still areas that are closed to the public so they appreciate that visitors respect these closures. Finally, the HTA expresses mahalo for understanding and anyone wanting to visit the island or find out more about how to be a part of the Maui recovery can go to