Maui Is Open for Travel, but the Loss of Lahaina May Reshape Tourism

The loss of Lahaina remains a wound felt across all of Maui.

Two months after destructive wildfires killed at least 97 people and razed thousands of acres of the island’s western side, Maui is fully open to visitors. Tourists are bustling along streets on the north coast, sunbathing on Kihei beaches and admiring the dazzling double rainbows stretched across Kapalua Bay. But the historic town of Lahaina, once West Maui’s prime destination, is partly shielded from view by dust screens, charred palm trees and brightly painted signs on the highway entreating people to “Let Lahaina heal” and “Respect the locals.” Checkpoints restrict residents from entering freely.

Lahaina had famous restaurants and lively bars that made it a linchpin of area tourism. But the businesses, like the town, were flattened. Without Lahaina, the path to recovery in West Maui, and islandwide, is uncertain, a handful of Maui residents in various industries recently emphasized.

“Unfortunately tourism is just such a big part of our economy. When something like this happens, the domino effect is catastrophic,” said Jasmine Kilborn, whose business, Holo Holo Maui Tours, specializes in private excursions around the island. The company website still says that travelers can “enjoy at leisure time in Lahaina Town.” Ms. Kilborn, 42, along with the company’s four other employees, are on unemployment. Their business has been decimated, she said.


Leave a Comment