Sunday, August 27, 2023

Maui Memories: Will Anything Improve?

From the Washington Post: Readers recollect their experiences in Lahaina and Maui,

(Very) long term readers of PND may recall my family lived on Maui for about six years which for me was all of my high school years (and no, I was not on the Spicoli schedule).  In those years, Maui had fully half as many people as live there now and far less tourists. Maui had no direct link to 'the mainland' and all travel from Hawaii had to pass though Honolulu which in turn meant that the Maui airport wasn't much larger than a small warehouse. Even part of the roof was purposely open so that a decent sized tree could sit in the middle of the waiting area just next to the single baggage carousel.

We did not live near Lahaina. Our home was in Kihei on the south side of the island where a large tract of undeveloped land had been acquired by a development group to build a resort and condo complex similar in scope to Kaanapali which is north of Lahaina and had been built during the 1960s. Wailea was named after the longest beach on this part of the coast and the first hotel built in the development was managed by Intercontinental (IHC). This is the chain my father worked for and he was asked to run the hotel a little after it opened. We lived above the store so we had the run of the resort.

There was nothing else in Wailea at this time except one 18 hole golf course, but subsequently over the time we lived there an additional hotel was completed, three condo developments and another 18 holes were added. We were long gone - my parents moved to London where my father ran a division of IHC in Europe and I went to college - before development really expanded in Wailea. 

In contemplating the destruction of Lahaina, I know I, my family, and the travel industry generally have contributed fundamentally to the problems Maui and Hawaii face. Over-development, disenfranchisement and a severe housing crisis are all evident either in the causes or the consequences of the fires. And while the Lahaina fires have drawn attention to all these issues I don't believe real solutions will result unless reforms are made to land use and social programs. If you can even find a place to live the cost of living can be as high as Manhattan. Regrettably, tourist salaries don't provide the same amount of disposable income.

More than 70% of the Hawaiian economy is dependent on tourism which is why it is important for tourists to continue to visit Maui even while acknowledging that tourism drives up prices, contributes to high land costs, erodes water rights and supports a transactional economy which will never help Hawaii create a more balanced economy which can support the local community for the long term. Ironically, Maui has to encourage tourism to prop up the economy while understanding this continued reliance on this industry will not build a sustainable future.

Everything in these images from 1960-1985 is now gone.

No comments: