Hawaii calls for travelers to see Maui as unemployment claims surge after fatal wildfires

August 28, 2023: Officials in Hawaii are urging tourists to come to Maui to help keep the economy as unemployment claims surge on the island because of the fatal wildfires in the western region.

According to Gov. Josh Green’s new emergency proclamation, West Maui is off limits to visitors through at least October 17 as search and recovery efforts continue in the devastated town of Lahaina.

However, the governor and the Hawaii Tourism Authority are encouraging tourists to visit all other areas of Maui to help support a local economy suffering from the blaze.

Sen. Brian Schatz said furloughs and layoffs are starting to pick up because people think the whole island is closed.

According to data from the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, unemployment claims in Maui have skyrocketed from 130 shortly before the blaze to 4,449 as of last week.

Schatz encouraged tourists to visit South Maui: “If you are planning a trip to Wailea or Kihei, don’t cancel. If you want to come to Hawaii, consider South Maui,” the senator said on social media Thursday.

Green said on Monday that the areas on the island outside West Maui and the rest of the state are safe and open for business.

“When you come, you will support our local economy and help speed the recovery of the people that are suffering right now,” Green said on Monday during a press conference with President Joe Biden.

The wildfires have killed at least 115 people and caused billions of dollars in property damage in the deadliest U.S. blaze in more than a century and the worst disaster in Hawaii’s history.

Moody’s estimated that wildfires have caused between $4 billion and $6 billion in economic losses this week. The estimate is likely low because it focuses on damage to physical infrastructure.

The figure did not factor in the expected hit that Hawaii’s overall gross domestic product will take, the money government agencies have spent on the response, and the social costs of the wildfires.

Moody’s said the rebuilding process would add to the total economic losses due to the impact of inflation during a recovery expected to take years, the high cost of labor in the construction industry, and because goods on Maui are more expensive due to its remote island location.

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Hawaii calls for travelers to see Maui as unemployment claims surge after fatal wildfires