So you are wondering about taking a vacation on Maui … should you or not? Here are some of my thoughts about things to know when visiting Maui in 2024. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section. These “reminders” are in addition to the basic things visitors need to know, such as “use reef-safe sunscreen, donʻt touch the turtles, and many more, which I previously shared in my book Maui 2021 and Beyond.
Maui is in the process of healing and recovery from the August 8, 2023 Lahaina Wildfire.
What does this mean? Many problems related to the fire need to be addressed and solved. As of this writing (and recording), there are still about 6,000 people living in hotels impacted by the fire. Housing is just one of the many problems. I am sharing this not to discourage you from visiting Maui … I just want you to be aware so that you have a better understanding of why sometimes you see people airing out frustrations on social media and some are telling potential visitors not to come. This leads us to my second point …
Maui needs “respectful visitors” to come visit Maui.
A big part of Mauiʻs economy is tourism, and for us to help the small local businesses struggling right now, we need more visitors to come. But not just regular visitors – we need “respectful” visitors to come. Interestingly, I read a thought in this article that made me ponder this “visit respectfully” quote. In the article at the Beat of Hawaii it says:
Maui walks a fine line between necessary tourism, long-suffering fire victims, overall housing shortages and irate anti-tourism advocates.
Using cloaked and potentially offensive terms, HTA says it only wants to attract “respectful” tourists to Maui. This comes as an element of their outreach campaign to both US and Canadian visitors. Canadian visitors typically make up just under 10% of Maui’s visitors and spend just under $1 billion annually. Meanwhile, massive US tourism has an annual estimated value of $16 billion.
“Maui is welcoming visitors who are compassionate, who can come respectfully, who can really abide by some of the sensitivities and restrictions in place to protect the community at this time… So long as you do it mindfully. And so, for the time being, tourism’s role in helping Maui’s overall recovery is to ensure that the right kind of respectful visitor returns.” – Ilihia Gionson, Hawaii Tourism Authority public information officer
We find the messaging strange and potentially offensive as, for many people, coming to Maui is to vacation in paradise and simply a step away from everyday life. It involves a long flight, expensive accommodations, and airfare. The money they spend contributes to the Maui economy to keep it strong, help locals have employment and provide social welfare benefits to many in need. When visitors are asked to change or confirm their vacation habits because of “sensitivities and restrictions,” this could backfire and send tourists elsewhere.
While HTA still does want to promote tourism, putting seemingly meaningless restrictions in these terms on which visitors it wants could simply turn people away. Visitors might also get the idea, based on this kind of messaging once again, that Maui isn’t really ready for visitors at this time. And that there is simply more that needs to be done before people can have the kind of vacation that they are used to having on Maui.
In my opinion, if a potential visitor gets offended by the message about “being respectful”, then they really should not come here. I understand this “call” will limit the visitors, but it is what it is – Maui is in a stage of healing and recovery and we canʻt accommodate “entitled” visitors for the sake of economy. But really, most of the visitors I talked to do not complain about having to be respectful. It is natural to them, and so they get to enjoy the beauty and resources of Maui as they respect the people of Maui.
Consider the source when researching about visiting Maui in 2024.
With the information overload on the internet, and the rise of social media, it is becoming hard to see a balanced view of things here on Maui, what the real situation is, and what is current and relevant. The information is overwhelming. On one hand you will hear a plea for you not to come to Maui, on the other hand you will hear a plea for you to come to Maui.
Interestingly, those who avoid internet news and social media and decide to get their information the traditional way, like travel books, are not exempted from getting the wrong information.
Because I am writing a book about visiting Maui in 2024, I always check out the available books out there in the bookstore. Sadly, with the rise of AI use, there is an increased amount of Maui Travel Guide Books written by AI. There is a newly published book that mentioned “Visiting Front Street Lahaina” as part of Things To Do on Maui in 2024! (click the link and see the sample pages page 9, item 7) Say what????
And the famous Maui Revealed guide hasnʻt released an updated version of their guidebook. The popular book is now irrelevant.
Anyway, back to my point of making sure the information source is reliable when planning your visit to Maui, my personal recommendation is following MauiInformation Guide, All About Maui, and Hawaii Vacation Guide Youtube Channel.
I am sure I will be coming back with more reflections on this.