Native Hawaiians are pleading with tourists not to travel to Maui after a wildfire in Lahaina, Maui.
According to NBC News, the death toll has risen to 80 people with thousands displaced. As of Friday 2,200 buildings and structures were damaged or destroyed. Officials believe that restoration efforts could cost over $5.52 billion.
Native Hawaiians and government officials are asking tourists to reconsider their upcoming travel plans to Maui. They say resources and attention must focus on the local community.
“Visitors who are on non-essential travel are being asked to leave Maui, and non-essential travel to Maui is strongly discouraged at this time,” the Hawaii Tourism Authority wrote in a statement, according to SF GATE. “In the days and weeks ahead, our collective resources and attention must be focused on the recovery of residents and communities that were forced to evacuate their homes and businesses.”
Some tourists have questioned whether a trip to Maui could help aid the local economy. Native Hawaiian actor and activist Jason Momoa has warned tourists that traveling to the island is not providing support, Variety reports.
“Maui is not the place to have your vacation right now,” Momoa wrote on Instagram on Friday. “Do not convince yourself that your presence is needed on an island that is suffering this deeply.”
Government officials say it is safe to travel to other islands in Hawaii, but many people have voiced concern about the strain tourism will put on the islands that are welcoming displaced Maui residents. Denise Ambrusko-Maida, owner of Travel Brilliant, a Buffalo-based travel agency told The Washington Post she is not sending her clients to Hawaii for the foreseeable future.
“We don’t want to overstress their system, especially Oahu,” she said.
For years, Native Hawaiians have asked tourists not to travel to their homelands. They say the tourism industry is ruining Hawaii’s ecosystem and pricing out indigenous people.
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