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Controversy erupts in West Maui as timeshare owners arrive despite tourism delay

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – As state and county officials prepare for a phased reopening of tourism to West Maui on October 8th, some say visitors are already in Ka’anapali.

Displaced Lahaina residents staying at the Hyatt Regency did not want to go on camera for fear of retaliation. Still, they told HNN the sight of new arrivals at the Hyatt Vacation Club next door hit a nerve.

A spokesperson for Hyatt said the people seen by Lahaina residents are timeshare owners with pre-existing reservations.

In a statement saying quote:

We very much respect the Hawaii Governor’s proclamation that strongly discourages nonessential travel to West Maui until October 8. All revenue-generating reservations at Hyatt Vacation Club at Kā’anapali Beach have been canceled into October. Hyatt Vacation Club Owners who have a deeded real estate ownership interest (for which they pay property taxes) and pre-existing reservations are permitted to be on property at this time.

“Yes, they own property. They pay property taxes,” said Syed Sarmad with Advantage Vacations, who has more than 45 years in the Maui timeshare business. He estimates more than half of the lodging in Ka’anapali are timeshares, with most of the owners from the continental U.S.

“They don’t own enough here to stay here for a long time. They are vacationers.”

HNN reached out to the governor‘s office for comment and received this statement from DBEDT Director James Kunane Tokioka.

Since the Governor issued the seventh proclamation relating to the wildfires, this is the first that we’ve heard of visitors staying in West Maui. The hotel partners that I have been in contact with on a regular basis have not taken in guests other than shelter survivors and government employees. We would like to thank all of the partners that have been respectful to the survivors and adhering to the Governor’s strong discouragement of nonessential travel to West Maui until October 8.

According to a Hyatt spokesperson, the staff have been highly responsive to concerns raised by Lahaina fire survivors and have made modifications, including restricting pool access and suspending food and beverage service on the property at this time out of sensitivity from displaced residents staying nearby. It also says that only a small fraction of their timeshare villas are occupied, with owners being reminded to be respectful.

This comes as tensions continue to rise as the October 8th opening date gets closer, with more than 7,000 people signing a petition online calling for it to be delayed.

On Tuesday, the governor stood by his plan.

“This begins the process of recovery for Lahaina and its people. It’s a very difficult decision. We expect a small fraction of the normal travelers to come at that time. It’s just the beginning. We will not displace any survivors and their families for tourists. We will make every effort, no matter what, to take care of our people,” said Green.

It comes as thousands in Maui County continue to apply for unemployment every week, two months after the fire.

Whether some like it or not, come next month, it will be more than just timeshare owners staying at Ka’anapali Beach.

The full statement from Hyatt Vacation Club reads as follows:

Hyatt Vacation Club consists of several points-based and weeks-based Ownership programs. In a normal operating environment, non-owners also have the opportunity to experience our resort offerings through rentals. However, all revenue-generating reservations at Hyatt Vacation Club at Kā’anapali Beach have been canceled into October. Currently on property at Hyatt Vacation Club at Kā’anapali Beach are timeshare owner reservations.

We very much respect the Hawaii Governor’s proclamation that strongly discourages nonessential travel to West Maui until October 8. All revenue-generating reservations at Hyatt Vacation Club at Kā’anapali Beach have been canceled into October.

Hyatt Vacation Club Owners, who have a deeded real estate ownership interest (for which they pay property taxes) and pre-existing reservations, are permitted to be on property at this time.

We have communicated the Governor’s proclamation to Hyatt Vacation Club Owners and information regarding the limited level of service and amenities that are available both on and off property during their stay and provided opportunities and options for canceling or rebooking. We have an extremely limited number of Owners on the property – only 10 of our 131 villas are occupied at this time – and have encouraged any Owner who is returning to their residential unit do so respectfully. We are being highly responsive to the concerns raised by those who have been affected and have made modifications, including restricting all pool access and food and beverage amenities on the property at this time.

We understand that the community has incurred significant loss, and it is a very emotionally challenging time for the people of West Maui. We are sensitive to the needs of our associates who have been deeply impacted and are working to extend care to the community while also caring for owners on property. Hyatt Vacation Club at Kā’anapali Beach is not owned or operated by Hyatt.

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