Tourism in Maui has plummeted 70% since August 9th after fire tore through Lahaina. But now isn’t the time for Americans to shy away from visiting Hawaii; many locals depend on tourism dollars to earn a living, and it’s more important than ever for tourists to do their due diligence to ensure their money goes towards supporting the locals and island conservation.
Before the Hawaii fires turned heads, the B-Corp Certified luxury travel company, The Coconut Traveler, was and continues to be hard at work making a positive impact on its community and environment. The Coconut Traveler’s first-ever Impact Report showed that it raised over $51,000 in 2022 from the Responsible Tourism Fee (RTF) travelers participated in. They divided the money evenly among five local volunteer organizations.
Hawaii Wildlife Center
The Hawaii Wildlife Center offers emergency response and care for native Hawaiian birds and bats. It also runs community conservation programs. The Coconut Traveler’s RTF covered one year’s worth of fish for seabird patients.
Hawai’i Association of Watershed Partnership
The Hawai’i Association of Watershed Partnership protects over 2.2 million acres of forested watershed land. The Coconut Traveler’s funds helped support native planting efforts to promote the health of Hawaiian plants and coral species.
Malama I Na Honu
Malama I Na Honu’s mission is to protect Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles by working with the public to raise awareness and educate them about the importance of Green Sea Turtle conservation. With the support of The Coconut Traveler’s RTF, Malama I Na Hong purchased two turtle satellite trackers.
Conservation Dogs of Hawaii
Conservation Dogs of Hawaii works with dogs to restore and protect the native Hawaiian ecosystem. The Coconut Traveler’s donation supported transporting two dogs, which are trained to detect invasive and endangered plant species.
Aloha Tree Alliance
Aloha Tree Alliance is a Hawaiian nonprofit focusing on forest restoration and mitigating climate change in the local region. RTF funds from The Coconut Traveler went towards restoring and reforesting hiking trails on Oahu Island.
Visiting Maui After the Fires
The historic and once bustling tourist hotspot of Lahaina currently isn’t fit for travelers to visit. The Coconut Traveler’s founder, Debbie Misajon, recommends nervous travelers who are on the fence about visiting Maui to study a map. Tourists should steer clear of towns on the island’s west side, including Lahaina, Kaanapali, Napili, and Kapalua.
As for the rest of Maui? You’ll be welcomed with open arms.
Misajon says, “The rest of the island relies on tourism as the economic driver and travelers are welcome back now that the local community, state, and federal government are working together and have a plan in action for that region.”
All other Hawaiian islands are also welcoming tourists.
Responsible Tourist Behavior in Maui
Although tourists are encouraged to support Maui’s local economy with their visit, traveling responsibly is vital. Misajon implores tourists to be mindful, for even if Maui locals “don’t live or work in that part of the island [that was affected by the fire], they are likely related to or know someone who has lost someone, lost a job, lost something material.”
Tourists who visit other parts of Hawaii must be mindful too. “The islands are all one, so when traveling to the other islands, it’s likely someone knows someone on Maui,” Misajon says. She recommends to “Spread aloha, be gentle, and take care.”
Whether you’ll be visiting Maui in person or want to support from afar, many local organizations need donations. The Hawai’i ‘Ulu Co-op allows people to sponsor the planting of an ‘Ulu tree for Lahaina, while the University of Hawai’i Foundation seeks donations for their refugee feeding efforts. Maui County offers an in-depth list of ways people can support with their money, time, and goods to locals in need.
Misajon says, “This will be a long recovery for Maui and every financial contribution is greatly appreciated.” She wants to remind tourists to “Be tender, but enjoy your time of rest and relaxation, and please make a donation to any of the organizations doing work in the area.”