Should they stay or should they go?
The horrible tragedy on Maui, wildfires chewing through large swaths of the western side of the island, burning historic Lahaina to the ground and killing over 100, is still unfolding. Families suffering, lives forever altered, paradise strained. In the days after the fire, which sparked to life on August 8th, Maui residents and those on neighboring islands pleaded with tourists to change their travel plans and not visit.
“Maui is not the place to have your vacation right now,” Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa declared, adding, DO NOT TRAVEL TO MAUI. Do not convince yourself that your presence is needed on an island that is suffering this deeply.”
The sentiment remains for many, days, on, but others are feeling the strain as tourist dollars account for the bulk of Maui’s economy.
“We’re really in pain, but I have no trouble with a customer coming in with a smile on their face,” Panna Cappelli told NBC News. She had art gallery on Front Street in Lahaina and the work of some 200 local artists were all destroyed but she also has three other galleries on the island that remain open and in need of customers.
“Come to Hawaii, but also respect what is happening,” said Maui resident Jon Baker, who owns and operates a rental car business near the normally bustling Kahului Airport. “If you don’t see the typical aloha, it’s only because people are hurting and grieving,” he added. “We rely on tourism. We need it.”
Air travel to Maui has dropped by 80% since the fire.
“It’s a fine line. It’s a fine balance,” said Ilihia Gionson, spokesman for the Hawaii Tourism Authority. “At the end of the day, for those people who want to be working, we want to make sure they can be working. What we don’t want to see is people losing their homes and then losing their jobs.”
“(Not coming to Maui) is the wrong message,” said Maui-based wedding photographer Tara Lee Murphy. “We want to keep working to keep Maui open. We don’t want Covid 2.0.”
And on it goes.
But do you have an opinion on the matter?
Team Momoa or Team Tourist?
More as the story develops.