OPEN JAW ON THE SCENE

Maui Visitor Numbers Fall But Some Feel The Tide Turning

Open Jaw's Jim Byers at the Napili Kai Beach Resort on West Maui. The resort is fully open for visitors.

Visitor arrivals to Maui were down sharply following the August 8 wildfires, new statistics show.

Arrivals declined 57.1% in September 2023 compared to September 2022, with visitor spending also down significantly by 52.6% to $203.2 million. Statewide, total visitor spending declined by 9.6 percent to $1.37 billion, with 7.4% fewer visitors during September. So, it’s not Maui that’s taken a hit.

I was on the island of Lana’i on the weekend and merchants told me that the drastic reduction in ferry passengers going to Lana’i is having a big impact on their bottom line.

“I’d say one-half our business is from day-trippers on the ferry, so it really hurts a small business like ours,” one Lana’i city store owner told me.

I’m on Maui this week, and I’m told things are improving in south Maui/Wailea and on the eastern shore. I was in the east Maui town of Paia on Monday and it was hopping. Makawao was pretty busy on Tuesday, and merchants told me things are gradually getting better.

“You can see there are more people out and about in Wailea,” a worker with an outrigger canoe company told me just today. “It’s getting better but we still need more people.”

It’s fairly busy at the beautiful Wailea Beach Resort, where I’ve been the last couple days. But they’re looking forward to a boost as the holidays edge closer.

Sunset at the Wailea Beach Resort, with West Maui in the distance. Jim Byers Photo

Year-to-date, total visitor spending throughout the Hawaiian Islands was $15.79 billion, up from $13.30 billion (+18.7%) in the first nine months of 2019 prior to the pandemic, with a 6.5% decline in visitor arrivals.

As visitors make plans to return to Maui, HTA is sharing newly created videos featuring heartfelt messages from residents and information on how to travel with respect and compassion to support the community’s healing. These resources are available in our Mālama Maui toolkit for community members, industry partners, and businesses to utilize broadly.

In addition, the County of Maui recently launched the MauiNuiFirst.com website with listings of local businesses and events that visitors can support.

“Our work continues during this crisis to stimulate mindful visitation from the U.S. and Canada, Maui’s historically largest markets, with targeted programs maximizing the additional Maui recovery funding that was approved by the HTA board of directors,” officials said.

For more information on the September 2023 visitor statistics, visit www.hawaiitourismauthority.org/research/monthly-visitor-statistics/.

Tourism is the biggest industry on Maui, and it’s important for people to visit and support the local economy.

West Maui, where Lahaina is located, has been slowest to recover from the fires, and could definitely use a boost. I’ll be there 02NOV and part of O3NOV, checking things out in Napili (we’re staying at the gorgeous Napili Kai Beach Resort) and Ka'anapali, home to many of the islands top resorts.

If you visit, please do respectfully. Do NOT take photos of Lahaina and do not pry into people’s personal lives.

Please DO make a donation to a Maui charity. One great one is the Hawai’i Community Foundation’s Maui Strong campaign.

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