(The Center Square) – The fires that devastated the western portion of Maui will significantly impact tourism, the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism said Thursday.
“With the tragedy in Lahaina, 88 transpacific flights were cancelled in August 2023 and the daily domestic passenger count to Maui decreased 70 percent since August 9,” DBEDT Director James Kunane Tokioka said in a statement. “While we are requesting that visitors avoid West Maui (including Lahaina, Napili, Kaanapali, and Kapalua) at this time, we encourage visitors to travel to the rest of Maui (including Kahului, Wailuku, Kihei, Wailea, Makena, Paia and Hana) and other Hawaiian Islands and support our local economy and the well-being of Maui and its recovery.”
Maui is second only to Oahu in the number of visitors who come to Hawaii. Visitor spending during the first seven months of 2023 is $4.10 billion, a 19.1% increase from the same period in 2022, according to statistics from DBET. The number of visitors in the first seven months increased by nearly 4% over last year’s numbers to 1,179,438.
The fires come at a time when the Aloha State is still recovering from the effects of the pandemic. More than 932,000 people visited Hawaii in July 2023, a 1.5% increase from last year, according to the DBET.
“July 2023 marked the 29th consecutive month with year-over-year growth in visitor arrivals,” Tokioka said. “Year-to-date through July, total visitor arrivals recovered to 95.6 percent of the 2019 level for the same period. During the same period last year, the recovery rate was 86.8 percent.”
Hawaii had the highest increase in initial unemployment claims than any other state, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor. The number of initial claims jumped by 3,553. More than 4,800 people were receiving claims during that week, according to DOL data.
The cost to rebuild West Maui could take billions, Gov. Josh Green said previously. With most of the area except for some coastline searched, emergency personnel is removing hazardous household chemicals from the areas. Once that is done, the personnel will move to Phase 2, removing debris.
The fires claimed 115 lives.
— Kim Jarrett, The Center Square Associate Editor