Advice from Meet Hawai’i on supporting the islands in wake of Lahaina fires

Meeting professionals watching images of devastation from the city of Lahaina on the island of Maui may be asking if it is safe or even prudent to bring groups to the Hawaiian Islands now. Smart Meetings reached out to John Reyes, senior vice president and chief sales officer of Meet Hawai’i, to ask how meeting planners can best support their counterparts in Hawai’i right now.

How can meeting planners best support the islands in the wake of the Lahaina fires?

To maintain vital business activity and keep residents employed, we encourage meeting planners to maintain any business commitments in Maui and Hawai‘i, or even explore adding meetings or events on other islands (Kauaʻi, Oʻahu and Island of Hawaiʻi).

Meeting planners and event industry professionals interested in making donations to help communities and families recover on Maui can contribute through the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund.

Read More: Hospitality Industry Rushes to Support Wildfire Victims in Hawai’i

Also, we are urging meeting attendees throughout Hawai‘i to be especially mindful and respectful as our community endures this extremely difficult time.

As 70% of Maui’s economy is tourism-based, having a meeting event in unaffected areas of Maui provides needed jobs and incomes to the residents of Maui now and in the future.

What advice do you have for planners with programs on Maui and the other islands?  

While non-essential travel to West Maui (including Lahaina, Nāpili, Kāʻanapali, and Kapalua) is strongly discouraged per Governor Green’s sixth emergency proclamation through Oct. 17, 2023, 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. Hotels in unaffected areas will continue to operate and welcome guests.

What does the future of sourcing look like?

The Hawaiian Islands are open for business. The Meet Hawai‘i team is committed to informing and educating the meetings industry that group travel is welcomed on other parts of Maui and our other Hawaiian Islands of Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Lāna‘i, Moloka‘i, and Hawai‘i Island. Tourism is vital to Hawai‘i because it supports the local economy. To help speed the recovery, the Meet Hawai‘i team is committed to encouraging group travel and further establishing awareness that Hawai‘i is open and safe outside Lahaina.

Do you foresee there being CSR opportunities?

The Meet Hawai‘i team is working diligently and closely with community organizations and our industry partners to identify CSR opportunities that will augment and support the Mālama Hawai‘i program. The Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, in partnership with a statewide alliance of private industry partners, launched the Mālama Hawai‘i campaign during the pandemic, a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program that encourages mindful and regenerative tourism by providing special offers to travelers who participate in a voluntourism activity. The Hawaiian value of mālama means to care for—our people, place and ourselves.

Any further comments?

There was no damage to the main port on Maui, so supplies and equipment continue to enter the island as normal, allowing culinary teams to deliver incredible events, experiences, meals and banquet functions.

Read More: Father-Son Bonding Creates Culinary Magic in Hawaii

Our Meet Hawai‘i team is deeply saddened by the devastation of Lahaina in West Maui and the insurmountable loss of loved ones, homes and belongings, cultural and historical sites, and businesses. We are grateful for the outpouring of support for Lahaina among the meetings industry globally and appreciate everyone for reaching out, from sharing memories and offering their assistance, to asking questions about travel to Maui and the rest of the state.