HONOLULU (KHON2) — Thursday marked the fifth day since West Maui reopened to tourism, so how do businesses feel about it?
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Some said respect from visitors will be critical, while others wanted more time for those who are impacted to heal.
Duke’s Beach House in Lahaina reopened on Tuesday, Sept. 5 with limited hours after the fires on Tuesday, Aug. 8. Their general manager said business since then has been primarily local and most of their 200 employees have been brought back.
“But we are starting to see an uptick in tourists,” said Nick Ware, general manager of Duke’s. “If you’re going to come to Maui, you know, don’t go party too hard. There’s a lot of grief here. Don’t take pictures or ask personal questions.”
Joe White has two moped rental shops, one in Kihei and one north of Lahaina. He usually averages 25 to 30 rentals per day, but business has not gotten much better since Sunday, Oct. 8.
“But, man I’m not even getting phone calls,” said 808 Rides President Joe White. “I rented two vehicles this week, so far starting from Monday, I’ve rented two vehicles, one party of two.”
The Hawaiian Kingdom clothing store in Wailuku said they have seen more visitors since Sunday — travelers are a sight that come with mixed emotions.
“We gauge them when they come in, we say, ‘Hey, good morning!’ If they don’t say good morning, we’re like, ‘Okay.’ We still greet them with a smile, that’s just the way we are,” said Hawaiian Kingdom vice president of sales Kepa Caires. “We still need to process what’s going on, Bryce. And I hope this message gets out: It was too early opening up.”
Domestic passenger counts show a 38% drop in arrivals to Maui during the first 10 days of October in 2023 compared to the same time in 2022.
Economists at the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization said that is inline with their predictions of a very slow return. Ware had some advice — to those that want to hear it — for those who are planning to come to West Maui.
“Understand that, you know, it’s not the Maui that it was a couple of months ago. There’s a lot of hurt, there’s a lot of pain, there’s a lot of healing,” Ware said. “But there’s also a lot to be enjoyed here still, in a very respectful way.”
Click here to view a full breakdown of passenger arrivals to Hawaii from the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.