Michigan tourists among those returning to Maui as island reopens after fires
- West Maui is open for the first time since a devastating fire in early August.
- Some 92,000 Michigan residents travel to Hawaii per year
West Maui welcomed visitors on Sunday for the first time since Aug. 8, when raging wildfires destroyed much of the island along with the historic town of Lahaina. Nearly 100 people have been confirmed dead, with others still missing. North, East and South Maui have remained open since the fire, but Lahaina remains closed for now.
Since the fire, the island has lost about $13 million a day, according to The Economic Research Organization at the University of Hawaii and visitors dropped 75 percent. The island brings in over $5 billion annually from tourism.
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Maui welcomed 112,259 visitors in August, the lowest since February 2021 when 92,611 people visited the island, according to the state department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. Visitors also spent less, $246.7 million, the lowest since March 2021, $262.3 million.
Maui is a popular vacation spot for Michiganders. In 2022, over 92,000 Michigan residents traveled to Hawaii, and 37,000 Michiganders went to Maui. The average stay was about nine days.
“The best way to support Maui in its recovery is for travelers to continue with their Maui vacation this fall and don’t cancel those trips,” said Kalani Ka'anā'anā, chief brand officer for the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
“Maui’s economy is dependent on a robust visitor industry and there is still plenty to see and do while here that is away from Lahaina.”
Unemployment in Maui has reached 11 percent and isn't expected to drop below 4 percent, until 2026. The national unemployment rate is 3.8 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Hawaii is an extremely popular destination with AAA members,” said Julio Soto of AAA.
The agency encourages travelers to obey law enforcement and local leaders’ orders to stay away from Lahaina, tip well to help local residents and volunteering on vacation.
“Economic dollars that are poured back into these economies help the overall recovery,” Soto said. “It is a trip of a lifetime, and it would be a shame to put it off when the island is in fact open for business.”
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