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Is It Tactless to Meet in Maui Now?

Bringing a group to a tropical paradise for sun and fun when that paradise is reeling from loss may seem like a bad idea. But that’s the opposite of how Hawaii’s tourism leaders see it.

The shocking fire that burned the town of Lahaina, Maui, to the ground in early August took at least 115 lives and likely many more. For organizations considering meetings and events on the island, the devastation has left them wondering when it will be appropriate to gather there without being insensitive to the suffering of those in Maui and throughout the state.

The answer coming from Meet Hawaii is a clear: “come now,” with just a few exceptions.

“While non-essential travel to West Maui (including Lahaina, Nāpili, Kāʻanapali, and Kapalua) is currently strongly discouraged through October 17, 2023, per Governor Green’s sixth emergency proclamation, group business to all other parts of Maui (including Kahului, Wailuku, Kīhei, Wailea, Mākena, Pāʻia and Hāna) and other Hawaiian Islands are welcomed to keep residents employed and our economy alive,” said John Reyes, senior vice president and chief meetings, conventions and incentives sales officer at Meet Hawaii. “Hotels in unaffected areas will continue to operate and welcome guests.”a

Seventy percent of Maui’s economy is tourism based, and bringing groups to the parts of the island that are open ensures jobs for island residents, notes Visit Hawaii. But the marketing organization is also “urging meeting attendees throughout Hawaii to be especially mindful and respectful as our community endures this extremely difficult time.”

For groups interested in donating to Maui’s recovery, the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism suggests financial rather than in-kind donations. It recommends three relief organizations in particular:
• The Hawaii Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund
• The Hawaii Red Cross
• Maui United Way

Maui will also be sending a welcome-back message to leisure travelers and event organizers through a new $2.6 million Maui Marketing Recovery Plan, recently authorized by the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s Board of Directors. The advertising campaign, running through the end of October, will focus on rebuilding travel demand from the continental United States.

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