Thu, Oct 5, 2023 1:33 PM
By Kim Jarrett, The Center Square
Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said his administration would support Maui families who say they are unprepared for Sunday's planned reopening.
The governor announced last month the area would open to visitors on Oct. 8.
“Right now, we have 8,773 people on Maui who are unemployed because we’ve been closed, but they need to take care of their families. If we support Maui’s economy and keep Maui’s people employed, they will heal faster and continue to be able to afford to live on the island they love and call home," Green said in a statement provided to The Center Square on Thursday. "Some people aren’t ready, and we’re going to let people find their own time and way, with our administration providing the services they need to help them get there. We will gently reopen in partnership with Mayor Bissen and the County of Maui and will utilize a phased approach throughout the month of October.”
The number of visitors to Hawaii was down 7.3% in August compared to last year, according to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. Non-essential travel to West Maui was discouraged after the Aug. 8 wildfires, which "may have impacted travel to other islands," the DBEDT said.
"A total of 112,259 visitors arrived on Maui in August 2023, the lowest count since February 2021 (92,611 visitors)," said DBEDT Director James Kunane Tokioka. "Visitor spending of $246.7 million on Maui was the lowest since March 2021 ($262.3 million).
Some Lahaina residents petitioned the governor not to reopen on Sunday.
"The decision to reopen West Maui to tourism on October 8 was made after weeks of meetings and conversations with a broad spectrum of stakeholders within the Lahaina community that included hundreds of working-class families and small businesses devastated by the wildfire," the governor's office said. "The decision was not based on a closed-door meeting with hotel executives at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua as the petition implies.'
The fires killed 97 and damaged or destroyed more than 2,220 buildings. The cause of the fires is under investigation.