Friday, May 24, 2024

A Maui restaurant owner is ‘praying visitors will start to come back soon’

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The Maui wildfires killed more than 100 people.

Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources/Handout via Reuters

Local businesses on Maui say they’re suffering as tourism falls following deadly wildfires. The devastating blazes killed at least 114 people and left many more homeless. “We just hope that we will survive this,” Epic Maui Hikes said after numerous canceled bookings. 

A restaurant owner in Maui says he’s “praying visitors will start to come back soon” as local businesses suffer from a dearth of tourists. 

Coconut’s Fish Cafe owner Michael Phillips told Insider that “Maui is in mourning” following the devastating wildfires that have killed at least 114 people and left thousands homeless. 

“We literally have no tourism now as the fire has scared everyone off,” he said. “This time of year we normally have about 8,000 visitors arrive every single day, and I think it’s down to 1,500 now.”

Phillips said that the wildfires would affect Maui’s entire economy, which relied on tourism.

He said “tourists have to start coming back soon” before the local economy suffered long-term harm. 

The business owner said he’d already had to close one restaurant and make layoffs as it was losing $5,000 a day.

Phillips also urged the state of Hawaii to step in and provide unemployment assistance as it did during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Tour company Epic Maui Hikes told Insider in an email that it was “scary to see our calendars get more and more empty” as customers had canceled all their bookings through to the end of the year. 

“We’ve sent countless refunds, our business was not prepared for this, and we just hope that we will survive this,” the company said, adding that its guides have been donating supplies to people in need.

“Lahaina is closed, there is no point in traveling there right now, it needs time to recover. But most of Maui is open and we need tourists.”

The charred remains of an apartment in Lahaina on August 12.

YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images

Panna Cappelli, owner of the Maui Hands art galleries, added that it was “hard to be” in her Makawao store “greeting the few remaining tourists with a smile” when she wanted to cry after her Lahaina gallery burned down in one of the fires. 

“One gets the feeling that trouble cannot find you out here, on a tiny speck in the ocean,” she said. “It did, in the perfect storm of intense wind and drought and we are horrified at the consequences. Everyone you speak to has a story of loss. Everyone you speak to has a story of heroism.”

She said tourists should still visit Maui but asked them to “be respectful,” saying she didn’t want people to take photos of where their homes and businesses once stood and make them talk about their pain and losses.

Destination wedding photographer Tara Lee Murphy also said tourists were “welcome here with open arms.”

“We ask that they shop at local small businesses and eat at local restaurants,” she said. “We just ask that they come with Aloha, be respectful. Don’t go to the west side of the island, but the rest of the island is open and beautiful as ever. They can go to the beaches in Wailea, drive to Hana, see the waterfalls, go to the top of the crater, go hiking, relax by the pool, watch the sunset, it’s all still here.” 

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The Maui wildfires killed more than 100 people.

Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources/Handout via Reuters

Local businesses on Maui say they’re suffering as tourism falls following deadly wildfires. The devastating blazes killed at least 114 people and left many more homeless. “We just hope that we will survive this,” Epic Maui Hikes said after numerous canceled bookings. 

A restaurant owner in Maui says he’s “praying visitors will start to come back soon” as local businesses suffer from a dearth of tourists. 

Coconut’s Fish Cafe owner Michael Phillips told Insider that “Maui is in mourning” following the devastating wildfires that have killed at least 114 people and left thousands homeless. 

“We literally have no tourism now as the fire has scared everyone off,” he said. “This time of year we normally have about 8,000 visitors arrive every single day, and I think it’s down to 1,500 now.”

Phillips said that the wildfires would affect Maui’s entire economy, which relied on tourism.

He said “tourists have to start coming back soon” before the local economy suffered long-term harm. 

The business owner said he’d already had to close one restaurant and make layoffs as it was losing $5,000 a day.

Phillips also urged the state of Hawaii to step in and provide unemployment assistance as it did during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Tour company Epic Maui Hikes told Insider in an email that it was “scary to see our calendars get more and more empty” as customers had canceled all their bookings through to the end of the year. 

“We’ve sent countless refunds, our business was not prepared for this, and we just hope that we will survive this,” the company said, adding that its guides have been donating supplies to people in need.

“Lahaina is closed, there is no point in traveling there right now, it needs time to recover. But most of Maui is open and we need tourists.”

The charred remains of an apartment in Lahaina on August 12.

YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images

Panna Cappelli, owner of the Maui Hands art galleries, added that it was “hard to be” in her Makawao store “greeting the few remaining tourists with a smile” when she wanted to cry after her Lahaina gallery burned down in one of the fires. 

“One gets the feeling that trouble cannot find you out here, on a tiny speck in the ocean,” she said. “It did, in the perfect storm of intense wind and drought and we are horrified at the consequences. Everyone you speak to has a story of loss. Everyone you speak to has a story of heroism.”

She said tourists should still visit Maui but asked them to “be respectful,” saying she didn’t want people to take photos of where their homes and businesses once stood and make them talk about their pain and losses.

Destination wedding photographer Tara Lee Murphy also said tourists were “welcome here with open arms.”

“We ask that they shop at local small businesses and eat at local restaurants,” she said. “We just ask that they come with Aloha, be respectful. Don’t go to the west side of the island, but the rest of the island is open and beautiful as ever. They can go to the beaches in Wailea, drive to Hana, see the waterfalls, go to the top of the crater, go hiking, relax by the pool, watch the sunset, it’s all still here.” 

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