Resorts in Maui: Hawaii is for Rich and Mindful Visitors

Maui Nui 2
Avatar of Juergen T Steinmetz

The recovery after the fires for visitors to return to Maui is a difficult task. Sadly this is not for a lack of interest by potential tourists. There is a wider issue. Tourism is the victim, and so are the people residing in the Aloha State.


Has there never been a cheaper time to fly to Maui? Airfares from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Kahului, Maui, are back to rates sometimes below $200 round trip.

Airlines are flying nearly empty planes to Maui to hold on to their airport slots.
It appears this trend is ongoing until the end of March at least.

At first glance, it sounds like an incentive for future visitors to plan a holiday to the Valley Isle. At first glance, it also appears to be a great opportunity to fly to Hawaii on a budget – WRONG!

Hotel and resort rates on Maui are “astronomically high” while hotels are only running at 60% or less occupancy. Such numbers include misplaced local people from Lahaina still living in hotels until the end of this month.

Restaurants complain about having hardly any business, shops are empty, and attractions as well as activities are hurting. How could hotels charge the highest rates ever recorded on Maui, flights empty and cheap, a malicious formula to get business through tourism

A one-week vacation for a couple from California may only cost $400 for both when it comes to the flight, but adding $7,000 for a medium-range hotel plus $350 for an undefined resort fee on top of 20+ percent in taxes brings the bill close to $10,000. This also does not take into account the overpriced food, a rental car, the cost of going on a snorkeling tour, or fees to enjoy an attraction.

A one-week budget vacation in Maui this way can easily add up to an average of about $13,000.

According to Forbes, an average couple on a domestic vacation is ready to spend far from that – at about $2,800.

In comparison, a one-week stay in an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica including flights usually costs about $4,000 for a couple.

Good News for the Hawaii Tourism Authority

Is this good news for the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), the agency receiving taxpayer money to promote tourism to the Aloha State?

When asking the Maui Visitors Bureau, the hotels, and airlines for comments, journalists get referred to the Hawaii Tourism Authority for answers. Unfortunately, there is never a return call by HTA, nor any calls by the PR agency they pay for communication- Finn Partners.

No mass tourism, only mindful and high-spending Visitors

The reality is, that the Hawaii Tourism Authority has been working hard to make only”mindful and high-spending tourists” visit the Aloha State.

Their wish may have just become true – at least in Maui.

Those who would love to enjoy a week in Maui and have Mai Tais, party a little, and enjoy some activities but are on an average income simply will not come to Hawaii these days. They may also not be the mindful and culturally interested visitor.

Visitors want to have fun

Visitors are on holiday and want to have fun, eat, drink, and experience beaches. Being mindful and culturally sensitive may not be on their mind, while on a vacation to Hawaii. Those visiting a beach destination are often trying to get a break from a year of being mindful- they want to have fun.

It’s very different from going on a trip to Cairo, on a Safari in Africa, or to Rajasthan.

Hawaii is seen more in line with the Caribbean. It means Sea, Sand, and Fun. After all, tourism is a business, and the largest and most important business in the State of Hawaii.

Every resident in Hawaii is relying on tourism

Everyone living in the State of Hawaii is directly or indirectly relying on the travel and tourism industry.

The Caribbean, Thailand, and Spain love Hawaii’s policies enabling them to take their profits to their banks.

Not enough workers to clean hotel rooms

The other problem in Maui is the fact that many hotel workers fled the state after the Lahaina fires. The 60% occupancy and the high accommodation rates could be exacerbated by the fact that there are simply not enough staff working to provide essential services like housekeeping.

US Immigration Policies Hurt Maui Recovery

US Immigration policies are also preventing ready-to-go hotel workers from the Philippines from relocating to Maui.

eTurboNews was told the Red Cross ran out of money on February 8 to pay for the Maui hotel stays of displaced residents. On March 1, FEMA is taking over this task and is requiring everyone to vacate their temporary housing by February 29.

It is not clear what will happen to these people on March 1, and it can only be hoped they will not become an ever-rising statistic of the record number of homeless the entire state has been experiencing for quite a long time.

Empty Housing unite for displaced people

A reader from Lahaina alerted eTurboNews of 93 empty and fully furnished vacation rentals made available to locals by the owner to help with the housing crisis. Due to confusion, and complicated approval processes, they remain empty.

A real estate agent from Maui confirmed this, and FEMA told eTurboNews that many of those applying for housing have pets. Pets are mostly not welcome.

Emergency housing remains a no-go

Hawaii Governor Green has not given the okay to construct emergency housing for the homeless, so people are roaming the streets all over the state, many falling into depression, and succumbing to drugs and alcohol.

Even if Maui finds a way to attract visitors to come back, there just is not enough affordable housing available to hire enough staff to accommodate such visitors.

The housing crisis in Hawaii is not an issue only related to the deadly fires in Lahaina, it is a statewide issue. Homeless people are flooding the streets on Oahu unable to maneuver out of a spiral of bad luck and no money.

Tourism in Aloha State is in trouble despite record-high hotel rates, low airfares, and a mindset against tourism by those who are paid to promote travel.


This mixed with a culture of silence, favoritism, and face-saving is a deadly combination for profitable and successful tourism.

There have been numerous reports about industry professionals being fed up with the “Mindful tourism” approach by the state tourism authority, but are worried about speaking out. This was also confirmed by an independent source in Maui saying there are too many favors done in the past, so those that should say something won’t- in short corruption wins.

It remains to be a challenging and sad time for tourism to paradise.

About the author

Avatar of Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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