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All Of West Maui Opens To Tourists Next Week: What To Know About Traveling After The Hawaiian Wildfires

Topline

All of West Maui with the exception of several burned-out sections of the town of Lahaina will reopen to tourism on November 1, the county’s mayor announced this week, which officials call a necessary boost for the area’s struggling economy despite the protests of some locals.

Key Facts

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green last month announced a phased re-opening of West Maui to tourists that began on October 8, but Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen this week scrapped the final stages of the phased plan and instead said all of the still-closed areas—from Kahana to Kaʻanapali—will open November 1.

The only parts of West Maui that will remain closed are the sections of Lahaina that burned to the ground in the fires this August, though the New York Times reports even some areas that have already reopened, like the businesses at Whalers Village, are struggling with closed storefronts, and that hotel, timeshare and rental occupancy is only at roughly 30%.

Green said the restart of tourism earlier this month was needed to help the economy recover, temper surging unemployment and help restaurants, tour companies and hotels stay afloat.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority estimates the post-fire drop of visitors to Maui cost the state’s economy $9 million per day, according to the BBC, and local business owners said they’re encouraging visitors “to do as much as they can” by shopping, taking tours and using local services when on the island.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii urged visitors to help boost the economy and ‘Āina Momona, a local community organization, has issued simple words of advice for those planning to travel to Maui: “Visit, spend, go home.”

Crucial Quote

“You will be helping our people heal,” Green said to potential visitors in an interview with CBS.

Contra

Some on the island of Maui have penned a petition opposing the return of visitors. More than 3,500 West Maui residents spoke up earlier this month to say residents are not “mentally nor emotionally ready to welcome and serve our visitors,” the Associated Press reported, a small example of a tourism controversy that has long plagued the state. Tourism is the No. 1 driver of Hawaii’s economy, the state reports, but division surrounding the constant influx of visitors existed long before the blaze. One hotel worker told the BBC that locals are “kind of raised to hate tourists,” and there has long been discussion about over tourism rendering the state’s roads, beaches and businesses unusable for native Hawaiians. A study by Princeton University scientists earlier this year blamed tourists for damaging and destroying much of the Hawaiian islands’ natural environment, and some residents link tourism with many of the issues plaguing the state including lack of access to clean water and affordable housing, ABC News reported.

Key Background

The fire that broke out on Maui on August 8 is the deadliest U.S. blaze since 1918. Brush fires were first reported in West Maui and spread quickly to Lahaina, spurred by winds from Hurricane Dora to the south that pushed flames into areas impacted by drought. County Fire Chief Bradford Ventura said emergency management officials didn’t have time to issue evacuation orders to residents because the fire spread so quickly, and Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke said the state was prepared for hurricane rain but “never anticipated” widespread wildfires. At least 97 people died in the blaze, which reduced much of the historic town of Lahaina to ash. None of the 80 outdoor warning sirens across Maui were activated amid the emergency.

Surprising Fact

Lawsuits have been filed blaming both the state and a local utility company for the wildfires and resulting deaths. Maui County and the state of Hawaii have been sued for failing to sound alarms in a lawsuit filed by a man whose daughter died in the fire. He claims she could have been saved if the alarms had been activated. Officials have said they didn’t sound the alarms out of fear residents would confuse them with tsunami warnings and flee to higher ground, where the fire was worse. Maui County has filed a lawsuit accusing utility company Hawaiian Electric of starting the wildfire by negligently failing to shut off power during high winds and dry conditions.

Big Number

Nearly $6 billion. That is how much it will cost to rebuild Lahaina and Kula, the Pacific Disaster Center and Federal Emergency Management Agency estimated.

Further Reading

MORE FROM FORBESHawaii Travel Update: The Mayor Just Canceled West Maui’s Phased Reopening And Announced A New Plan That Begins Next WeekMORE FROM FORBESMaui Wildfire Becomes Deadliest U.S. Blaze In Over A Century-Surpassing These Other FiresMORE FROM FORBESMaui Fire Fatalities Drop To 97: Here’s Why The Death Toll Has Been So ‘Fluid’MORE FROM FORBESMaui County And State Of Hawaii Sued Over Maui Fire In First Suit To Blame The GovernmentMORE FROM FORBESMaui County Sues Hawaiian Electric Over Wildfires, Accusing It Of Negligence And Starting The Fire

The post All Of West Maui Opens To Tourists Next Week: What To Know About Traveling After The Hawaiian Wildfires appeared first on CNN World Today.



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