Hawaii Governor Josh Green announced last week that West Maui’s hotels and resorts would reopen to visitors as soon as October 8th.
Green cited economic recovery as the main reason for the reopening. A new government study predicted that the state would lose around $2 billion over the next two years in the aftermath of the Maui wildfire.
Concerns over Maui’s citizens re-entering the workforce were also taken into consideration, according to Mufi Hannemann, former Hawaii Mayor and now a member of the Hawaii Tourism Authority .
“We’re hearing from people across the board,” Hannemann said. “People who work for car rental agencies, restaurants, small businesses, attractions and hotels want to go back to work. That’s what [Governor Green] is responding to.”
Seems reasonable enough. But concerns have developed over the weekend that reopening West Maui a month from now may not provide enough time for displaced local residents, who lost their homes in the fire and are now living in hotels, to find permanent lodging.
According to Civil Beat, many residents will begin moving out of the hotels later this month and, hopefully, into various forms of long-term housing. But will they find housing for everyone in the next month?
Another local news station, KITV, cast some doubt on that with a report that included further comments from Hannemann insinuating some residents could still be living in West Maui’s hotels when visitors are welcomed back in early October.
“West Maui hotels are at about 55% capacity and there is plenty of room for visitors to join the residents living there,” the outlet reported.
In my last Hawaii Travel Update before the weekend, I offered some advice to those who plan to visit Maui in the near future. Among them was to consider that residents have suffered a great tragedy, and to behave accordingly. Flaunting your fun or overly enjoying yourself in front of people who are suffering might not be the best look.
If visitors and residents do indeed end up inhabiting the same hotels, that sets up a tricky situation. The hotels will certainly have their hands full catering to both.
Visitors may be traveling to Maui with the best intentions of supporting the local economy, but they will certainly expect some bang for their buck.
Meanwhile, displaced residents will have been homeless for nearly two months, and may find it painful to see visitors enjoying themselves.
The situation, if it comes to fruition, would seem to present a rather tough conundrum for everyone involved.
The next few weeks will be key as the government works to relocate displaced residents and find them permanent housing. Complicating this process is, of course, Maui’s overall lack of affordable housing.
Currently, Airbnbs and other rentals are being transitioned to long-term housing, but there are doubts about whether there will be enough for everyone.
Hopefully, hotels renting to residents will be able to remain entirely residential. Governor Green said recently that this was his goal.
We certainly have our fingers crossed, because the idea of mixing suffering residents and vacationing visitors seems less than ideal.