Earlier this month, wildfires ripped through West Maui, devastating the historic town of Lahaina and leaving at least 115 people dead, according to recent reports.
The entire Hawaiian island of Maui is now pulling together to assist displaced residents who lost everything – their homes, possessions, and in some cases, loved ones. Though the confirmed death toll is 115, it is estimated that hundreds more died in the fires, as the coastal community became a death trap of sorts with people struggling to flee.
Locals are looking after one another and also looking forward to rebuilding – but they can’t do it alone. Here are some ways that the travel industry is helping Maui in the recovery process.
According to Marilyn Clark, owner of Lighthouse Travel and a Hawaii travel specialist, travel advisors are doing their part by donating directly to families who work in Maui’s hospitality industry and have lost their homes, families, and/or jobs; promoting links to donate to Maui charities; and donating to Maui’s small businesses impacted by the fires.
“Many tour operators, travel agencies, and travel advisors who specialize in travel to Hawaii share the same Spirit of Aloha as those who work in the Hawaii hospitality industry,” Clark said. “We are fully aware of the losses that the Maui community has suffered, and we will do whatever we can to support their recovery efforts.”
Stacy Small, founder of Elite Travel Club, who lived on Maui for several years and specializes in Hawaiian travel, recommend that people give to the following funds:
“These are three organizations I personally support and know are working tirelessly to support humans and the animals affected on Maui,” Small said.
Clark also suggested donating to the Red Cross of Hawaii, United Way Maui, or the Maui Strong Fund.
Maui hotels are primarily focused on housing displaced individuals and families who have nowhere else to go. But aside from offering a place to stay, some hotels are also raising funds to aid residents and help rebuild.
The Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort is hosting a benefit concert on Saturday, Sept. 2 to fundraise for the cause. Admission is $20, and all proceeds from ticket sales will go to the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund, which was started to assist communities and families in their recovery.
Carnival Corporation made a $50,000 donation to provide direct relief in Maui, and CEO Josh Weinstein encouraged employees to also donate to the Hawaii fire disaster relief fund.
Norwegian Cruise Line made a $50,000 donation to Maui United Way. Its crew aboard the Pride for America, which sails exclusively around the Hawaiian Islands, also mobilized to bring supplies to those in need.
Hawaiian Airlines helped both to evacuate people from Maui and to deliver supplies soon after the disaster, transporting more than 54,000 pounds of essentials to the island. The airline has continued to help by bringing kennels and moving pets off the island, providing assistance to the Maui Humane Society and Island Pet Movers in their rescue efforts. Hawaiian also had staff volunteer with its Team Kokua to organize and distrubute supplies.
Alaska Airlines has brought in more than 189,000 pounds of essential supplies and pledged to donate $100,000 to relief funds. The airline is also donating miles and matching miles to help relocate displaced people on their flights.
"Our hearts are with those on Maui, and our employees and their families, during this devastating time,” said Daniel Chun, Alaska’s director of sales, community, and public relations in Hawaii. “We hope we can help bring much-needed care and relief to those who’ve experienced catastrophic loss throughout the community.”
American Airlines also helped with evacuations and is donating $1 million to American Red Cross for Maui relief efforts, and Delta has contributed $250,000 to the Red Cross in addition to helping deliver supplies and assist with evacuations.
United Airlines carried in more than 24,000 pounds of supplies, helped evacuate people to safety, and is donating funds. The airline is encouraging customers to donate their miles to its Miles on a Mission program, which is used for humanitarian aid and disaster relief. United has so far donated more than 52 million miles and nearly $475,000 to the cause.
The town of Healdsburg, a tourist hotspot in California’s wine country, raised $11,500 for the Maui Chamber of Commerce Foundation at its Annual Luau BBQ Party on Aug. 16.
There are also many businesses and organizations on the west coast – in California and Washington states – coming together to raise funds, especially due to their proximity to Hawaii and past experience with wildfires of their own.