A Maui travel update received this week from Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) attempted to be less baffling than before but did not entirely succeed. The new directive adds information for South Maui travel, which had been omitted previously, and does not go beyond August for West Maui visitors.
We received an update from the state late yesterday, but there was no further clarification from Governor Green as had been expected last night. Thus at the moment, the latest is as follows:
“All non-essential travel to West Maui (including Lāhainā, Nāpili, Kāʻanapali, and Kapalua) is strongly discouraged through the month of August,” Governor Josh Green said in his latest emergency proclamation. “But the other parts of Maui are safe.”
Guidance beyond August has not been provided thus far, and visitors for dates starting in two weeks have no word from the state. At the same time, the HTA said things including the following.
“Hotels in West Maui have temporarily stopped accepting bookings of future reservations. While efforts are underway to fully restore electrical power, municipal water, and communications, visitors are encouraged to refrain from attempting to reach West Maui accommodations for reservation adjustments until the situation stabilizes.”
“In alignment with Governor Green, the Hawaii Tourism Authority urges visitors to refrain from going to West Maui (including Lahaina, Napili, Kaanapali, and Kapalua) as a means of respect to the people and places that have been lost in Lahaina during this devastating tragedy.”
We are aware that at least some West Maui accommodations hope to reopen to visitors soon.
Update from HTA for visitors to Maui (other than West Maui).
The state said that “Visitors with travel plans to other parts of Maui (including Kahului, Wailuku, Kīhei, Wailea, and Mākena) should reach out to their accommodations to ensure they can still be hosted.”
There is no guidance prohibiting or discouraging visiting the vast majority of Maui. The messaging from the HTA and the governor has switched to being pro-travel to the rest of Maui. But even then, there will be questions.
The most recent announcement from the Hawaii Tourism Authority on Maui travel planning followed the devastating wildfires earlier this month. That latest announcement provided some further clarification but also left many questions. Visitors remain uncertain about all Maui travel, as is reflected in hundreds of recent comments we’ve received. It has also been reported that travel to Maui may be down by as much as 80% following the fires. We will give you our best suggestions based on the current messaging and what we know.
All of our focus continues to remain on those killed and displaced in the still unfolding devastation of Lahaina. There are no words to adequately express the pain and suffering that continues to hang over Maui and all of Hawaii.
Access to West Maui as highway has been reopened.
After the prior road closure due to the fire, limited access for personnel, incuding resort, first responders, medical, utility, county, supply transport, and volunteers was implemented.
Then last Wednesday, the Honoapiilani Highway which provides access to West Maui from Maalaea was reopened. to all vehicles from 6 am until 10 pm daily. Gov. Green said on announcing the reopening, “Anyone will be able to travel that road.”.
Prior advice from HTA to avoid Maui travel entirely is gone.
Several days ago, the state’s Hawaii Tourism Authority said, “People with non-essential travel plans to Maui are strongly discouraged from traveling to Maui at this time. Visitors who have plans to travel to Maui in the coming weeks are being asked to reschedule their trip for a later time. The island’s resources need to be dedicated to emergency response.”
But in this latest directive, that changed, with only West Maui being mentioned for no travel.
“Visitors Urged to Forego Travel Plans to West Maui.”
Hawaii Tourism Authority. 8/12/23.
HTA also said, “In the weeks ahead, the collective resources and attention of the federal, state, and county government, the West Maui community, and the travel industry must be focused on the recovery of residents who were forced to evacuate their homes and businesses.”
“Visitors with plans to stay in West Maui in the coming weeks and months are urged to consider rescheduling their travel plans for a later time when the overall situation has improved for area residents.”
Hawaii Tourism Authority. 8/12/23.
What does the latest HTA directive mean?
Our sense from discussions with multiple sources regarding travel to West Maui is as follows: It would be best to consider placing travel plans for the later this year on hold, at least for now, pending further information, even though the latest release only mentions August.
While the state has continued to refer to “weeks and months” of work ahead, it will undoubtedly take much longer than envisioned to get West Maui going again. That, as we realize, the scope of the devastation has barely been revealed, with so much to come. And even after that happens, the infrastructure for visitors may not be restored soon.
The often considered to be repugnant Hawaii Tourism Authority continues to never be clear in its messaging. It is no wonder that much of the state of Hawaii has long been ready to eliminate the Hawaii Tourism Authority entirely, and we will be surprised if that doesn’t ultimately occur. Those Hawaii residents who rely on employment within the tourism industry could face serious consequences if the state doesn’t get clear soon regarding better messaging about South Maui’s critical travel industry. Hawaii residents and Hawaii visitors both want to know what the future holds.
West Maui hotels are no longer accepting reservations.
“Hotels in West Maui have temporarily stopped accepting bookings of future reservations,” said Hawaii Tourism.
As hotels return online, they must house employees, families, and others dislocated by the fires and those on Maui, including first responders and others providing the range of critical help needed.
Do not try to reach West Maui hotels and vacation rentals.
The HTA has said that, “While efforts are underway to restore basic services, like power and communications, visitors are encouraged to refrain from attempting to reach West Maui accommodations for reservation adjustments until the situation improves.” We suggest checking for updates on accommodation websites.
There is no additional time frame being discussed yet, as efforts remain focused on finding the bodies of those who perished in the fire first. That process is underway, with much work to do even well over a week after the fires.
Absence of communication regarding West Maui after August.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority is, at this time, no longer advising visitors on whether or not to travel to West Maui after August. That information will, by necessity, be forthcoming and perhaps quite soon. As for the rest of Maui, as mentioned previously, those residents who rely on employment within the tourism industry will face serious consequences if South Maui’s critical travel industry doesn’t resume. And both Hawaii residents and Hawaii visitors want to know what the future holds, as much as possible under these catastrophic circumstances.
Travel to the other Islands is not impacted.
Those visitors planning on coming to the Big Island, Kauai, and Oahu are not affected by the conditions on Maui. Having said that, two of your editors are currently on Oahu, and the evacuation of visitors from Maui to Oahu has resulted in very challenging travel conditions and overcrowding. That, however, should subside as those visitors return to the mainland.
Updated 8/19/23 10 am.