HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The governor on Tuesday stuck by the planned reopening this Sunday of tourism in West Maui, but stressed visitors will return to the area slowly.
“This is just the start of the recovery. Oct. 8 is part of recovering when we talk to getting people back to work,” Gov. Josh Green said, on HNN’s “Spotlight Now.”
“It’s difficult. I’m utterly sympathetic to all of the suffering that is going on.”
He added “very little” will happen on Sunday, but he expects tourism to slowly pick up in November and December as visitors start to make plans to visit the area.
The Oct. 8 date for welcoming tourists back to West Maui comes two months after flames ravaged historic Lahaina town, leaving at least 98 people dead. Lahaina itself remains largely blocked off though residents are being allowed to return in small groups.
Maui’s mayor has separately announced a plan to gradually phase in tourism.
Green noted that more than 8,000 people are on unemployment following the Lahaina disaster — and many of those work in the tourism industry or at businesses reliant on visitors.
“It’s my job as governor to support them,” he said.
There have been growing calls for the governor to push back the date for officially — though largely ceremonially — reopening West Maui to tourism. There are no actual restrictions in place preventing visitors from going to the area, but hotels have largely agreed to wait to make reservations. At the same time, thousands of evacuees remain at the properties.
Scores gathered at the state Capitol on Tuesday morning for a protest of the reopening date. They say Lahaina evacuees are traumatized and simply aren’t ready to handle any influx of visitors.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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