Following a lot of controversy, West Maui quietly reopened to visitors. And while the debate continues to rage, much of the fears regarding an influx of visitors were found to be overblown. In fact, the return of visitors to the far northern areas of West Maui remains but a trickle.
As I’ve covered recently, many West Maui residents feared that visitors would come surging back in as soon as West Maui reopened. Perhaps, to take a balanced approach, Maui Mayor Bissen instituted a phased reopening plan just weeks before the October 8 deadline. Alas, many were still adamantly opposed to the plan and continued to petition and protest. However, it seems like their fears were unfounded, at least for now, much to the dismay of those seeking to get back to work.
West Maui Quietly Reopened
Many travel industry experts predicted what we’ve seen play out would be the case – West Maui quietly reopened to visitors. Unlike the pandemic reopenings, strong negative sentiments towards visitors are being transmitted around the world, giving many would-be visitors pause. On top of this, there’s the fact that much of West Maui remains closed, even in areas that have reopened. Outside of the business just not being there, labor continues to be a trying issue, as many area workers were displaced by the fires and remain unavailable.
In fact, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that the first day of the reopening saw just a trickle of arrivals. Sure, Kahului International Airport was busy during peak arrivals, but by and large, the main resort area that reopened – Kapalua – remained quiet throughout the day. And that’s to be expected. Many experts have stated in various publications and interviews that they don’t expect visitors to return in any number at least until sometime in November – possibly even later.
The problem, of course, is that Maui’s economy is continuing to suffer from its extreme lack of visitors. In fact, Maui County is now predicting a $31.23 million revenue shortfall. Sure, a huge portion of this comes from the loss of property tax revenue, but it’d be foolish to ignore the strong economic impacts the lack of visitors will continue to have on the County and State. In fact, Maui County is cutting its entire budget for 2024, including cuts to their Department of Fire and Public Safety – a questionable cut given the lack of firefighting power is partially to blame for this tragedy.
While I’m sure some are pleased that West Maui quietly reopened, it’s not exactly a good sign. Those who want to return to work are hurting, and even those who have been able to return to work face reduced incomes by way of fewer hours and tips. So, again, those of you planning or considering a visit to Maui – not just West Maui, but any part of Maui – please proceed with your plans. Maui needs us. Just remember to be sensitive when on-island.