During the days that followed the fatal wildfires, many residents of Hawaii urged visitors to avoid the area. A month later, though, officials are urging people to return but to do so in a responsible manner.
On the island of Maui in the Hawaiian islands, flames have been raging for more than a month, during which time they have claimed the lives of at least 115 people, destroyed more than 2,200 structures and houses, and uprooted others. The timber-framed settlement of Lhain, which dates back to the 19th century and was originally the seat of Hawaiian chiefs and kings who controlled a unified Hawaiian kingdom, was engulfed in flames during one of the deadliest wildfires in the history of the United States. The fire spread over an estimated 2,107 acres.
In the immediate aftermath of the catastrophe, local authorities and inhabitants strongly advised visitors to the island to postpone their trips and avoid going to the location altogether. However, restaurants, hotels, and tour operators are now giving out a different message to tourists: please come back to Maui, but do it in a responsible manner since they are being forced to lay off workers as unemployment rates continue to rise.
Patience and grace are the two most valuable traits that tourists may bring with them on a trip to Maui right now, as stated by Ilihia Gionson, a representative for the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA). “Travel to the island of Maui that is respectful, compassionate, and responsible is not only accepted but also highly encouraged,” he said. “Welcome” is not the right word.
As they prepare to return to Maui, native Hawaiians are encouraging tourists to keep the following in mind: knowing where it is safe to go and where it is not safe to go, as well as how they may assist the island and its citizens in recovering from the recent natural disaster.
Learn your way around.
The Hawaiian Tourism Authority (HTA) reports that due to the extensive damage that occurred on the northwestern side of the island, the community of Lhain will remain closed to the public until further notice. On the other hand, the communities of K’anapali, N’pili, Honoka’wai, and Kapalua will fully reopen to the public on October 8 – two months after the wildfires first started.
However, the north-western tip of Maui is only a small part of the state of Hawaii’s second largest and second-most visited island. Maui’s beguiling combination of lush rainforests, black-sand beaches, and hiking trails that meander from mauka (mountain) to makai (ocean) have led Hawaiians themselves to coin the popular local expression “Maui no ka ‘oi” (Maui is the best), and residents say that now is a great time to explore “the Valley Isle’s” wilder side. Maui is known as “the Valley Isle.”
Crystal Smythe, a native Hawaiian cultural practitioner and resident of Maui, suggests that tourists experience the upcountry portion of Maui, including trekking the Hosmer Grove Trailhead in Haleakala National Park – remaining until twilight to watch one of Maui’s most stunning sunsets. Smythe also recommends that tourists visit the Haleakala Crater. She remarked, “[You can also] enjoy other parts of the island that are also rich in beauty and culture like Haiku and Paia, which are famous for windsurfing and having lively ocean town atmospheres.” “[You can also] enjoy other parts of the island that are also rich in beauty and culture like Haiku and Paia.” Cafe o’Lei at the Mill House in Waikapu and SixtyTwo MarcKet in historical Wailuku town are two of our favorite locally owned restaurants. Both of these restaurants can be found in Waikapu.
“Everyone out here has been affected by the current situation,” said Jessie Johnson, a native Hawaiian and long-time resident of Maui who co-owns the photography company Pine & Palm Productions. Johnson is one of the business owners of Pine & Palm Productions. Therefore, any kind of involvement in the economy is beneficial. She recommends exploring Iao Valley to see one of Maui’s most famous monuments, the granite spire known as ao Needle, which is 1,200 feet in height and is located in Iao Valley. Hiking the Pipiwai Trail will let you to watch waterfalls that are rushing down. She also suggests paying a visit to the local businesses in the areas of Kihei, Wailea, Kahului, Wailuku, Hana, Kula, and Ma’alaea.
It’s important to support local companies.
Tourism is essential to the maintenance of local lives for people like Johnson, who own small businesses in the community. Her company received an average of 12 to 15 reservations per week when she first started out, but today they only receive three to four bookings per month on average.
She went on to explain that because of the sharp decline in business that they had seen, they were now in a financially unstable position. “Until we are able to generate income again, we have been forced to let some of our team members go.”
Johnson is not even close to being alone. The HTA estimates that around forty percent of all jobs on Maui are dependent on the spending of visitors. Since the fires, more than 8,000 people have applied for jobs in the private sector, according to Gionson.
Smythe feels that visitors to Maui can be of assistance to the island’s communities in a number of ways, one of which is by consulting the website of Maui Nui First, an organization that promotes locally owned businesses like as stores, restaurants, inns, and tour companies, when they are making plans for their vacations on the island.
Johnson could not have been more in agreement. “Large box stores and resorts have the financial backing to survive this drought in tourism,” she said. “[T]here has been a significant decline in overall tourism.” In light of the current state of Maui’s economy, providing as much assistance as possible to local businesses will go a long way toward protecting the jobs that are currently in jeopardy.
According to estimates provided by the HTA, the recent decline in the number of tourists to Maui is costing the state $9 million every day. “The livelihoods of countless residents here on the island depend on the resumption of tourism,” said Johnson. “The island is home to a wide variety of people from all walks of life.” “As a resident, we are all encouraging visitors to do as much as they can while visiting Maui, whether it be hiring a kayak guide, doing some yoga with cute baby goats on the slope of Haleakala, or acquiring something more permanent like a tattoo,” “As a resident, we are all encouraging visitors to do as much as they can while visiting Maui,”
In addition to this, Johnson emphasized the significance of being a self-sufficient traveler while in Maui during these challenging times. “Try not to rely on local resources for necessities, toiletries, or baby and feminine hygiene products.”
Hiker in Ao Valley, Maui, giving back to the community
According to Johnson, one of the most vitally significant things that tourists can do before making travel plans to Maui is to gain an awareness of the requirements of the residents. Her Facebook page, which is called Maui Travelers Guide, provides its 11,000 members with a plethora of information about how they can help contribute to Maui’s recovery and support the people who live there.
“The best way to support businesses here on the island is for visitors to do whatever they can, within their means,” recommended Johnson. “This will help the most.” “This may include doing anything from enjoying a plate lunch at a roadside stop on the way to [the beaches of] Hana to purchasing a pair of sunglasses at Sunglass Hut in order to assist staff in earning commissions. No matter how great or how tiny a gift is, they all add up to make a difference.
“Responsible tourism practices are the only way forward for Maui,” says Elijah Kal McShane, co-founder of Awakened Aloha, an organization dedicated to sharing the ancient knowledge of native Hawaiians with the modern world. “Responsible tourism practices are the only way forward for Maui.”
“You can experience Hawai’i beyond the glitz and glamour of advertising if you buy local produce, if you support local businesses, and if you actively engage with the community while you are here,” he added. “It all starts with making purchases locally.” For visitors who want to be considered pono, or virtuous, McShane proposes that they follow these four steps: get educated, make offerings, support aloha ‘ina, which literally translates to “love of the land,” and develop ‘ohana (family).
To do this, McShane recommends that tourists concentrate on activities that are connected to Hawaiian history, culture, and the arts. He went on to say that “Offering your time to volunteer opportunities that serve the community is a great way to give back before taking,” and that “Giving back before taking is a great way to think about it.” Many websites, such as the one run by the County of Maui called MauiNuiStrong and the one run by the HTA called Mlama Hawai’i volunteer activities, have compiled a list of the different ways in which tourists can help with disaster recovery efforts.
In addition, McShane recommends that visitors to Maui make connections with local craftsmen and cultivate relationships with them in a conscientious manner. “We see ‘ohana as the foundation of our community, where we support each other, love each other, and build with each other,” he added. “We see it as a place where we can build with each other.” “You can use social media to connect with locals before your trip, plan a private tour, or make connections in your profession that benefit the cultural integrity of Hawai’i.” “You can use social media to connect with locals before your trip.”
Keep the spirit of aloha in mind.
“Aloha” is without a doubt one of the most recognizable terms associated with Hawaii, and its meaning can be felt throughout the archipelago. The meaning of this gesture extends much further than these surface displays, despite the fact that many tourists could connect it with a simple greeting or farewell. A profound way of life, “aloha” encapsulates the love, compassion, and mutual respect that Hawaiians have for one another as well as for the natural environment in which they live. Aloha is a word that originates from the Hawaiian language.
It is now more crucial than ever for native Hawaiians like Johnson and McShane to exhibit “the aloha spirit,” and tourists are strongly reminded to be cognizant of the ongoing issues faced by local communities. Johnson and McShane are two examples.
Sunset on the Hawaiian island of Maui
According to Johnson, “many residents are still grappling with recent events, and it will take time for things to return to normal, particularly in places like Lhain Town, where many homes remain inaccessible and hold profound emotional significance.” “It will take time for things to return to normal, particularly in places like Lhain Town, where many homes remain inaccessible and hold profound emotional significance.” “Visitors can play an important role in fostering a positive and supportive environment during Maui’s healing process by traveling responsibly and showing consideration for the needs of our community,” the Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau says.
According to the well-known Hawaiian poet and thinker Aunty Pilahi Paki, “The world will turn to Hawai’i as they search for peace because Hawai’i has the key; and that key is aloha.”
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