How Maui Can Balance Aid, Recovery, and Tourism

Promoting small destination tourism might be a good short-term solution for West Maui

Christian Wardlaw
7 min readAug 16, 2023
West Maui rises in the distance in a sunset photo taken from Kamaole Beach Park III.
West Maui rises in the distance, seen from Kamaole Beach Park III in Kihei, Hawaii. (Copyright: Speedy Daddy Media, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Maui is reeling from the destruction caused by recent wildfires. The West Maui area, where Lahaina burned, is particularly devasted due to the loss of life, love, livelihood, and local history.

In place of fire, a debate rages regarding the role of ongoing tourism amid loss, pain, and struggle. Should tourists stay away from Maui, or must they keep the island’s economy strong as its people recover and rebuild?

Before I answer that question, know this. I don’t live in Hawaii. I’m not an expert on Hawaiian culture, community, ecosystems, or the economy. But, like so many people, I adore the place. I love the people, the language, the traditions, and the values; everything that underpins the concept of aloha.

When I step out of an airport on any of the Hawaiian islands, take a deep breath of the heavy, scented air, and feel the trade winds on my skin, I can sense all the worry and stress flow out of my body, replaced with peace and calm. Well, except for driving Honolulu’s H1 during rush hour. (But even that is a treat compared to Los Angeles, where I live.)

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Christian Wardlaw

Father. Husband. Driver. Traveler. Writer. Editor. Photographer. Video Host. Survivor.