Drone picture of Lahaina pre fire

The Trickle-Down Effect: What’s Next for Maui

To House or to host? To visit Maui or not visit? This is a question on everyone’s mind right now that owns a vacation rental on Maui. With tourism in a state of confusion and the local community struggling to find housing-what is the answer? I talk with people all day long from the early hours of the morning to the very late hours at night regarding this predicament. Both folks looking for long term housing and Owners of vacation rental units that both want to help, but also have mortgages to pay.


The challenge for many unit owners is that maintenance fee on a vacation rentable unit is extremely high. Often $1,000 a month or more. Add on top of that mortgage, taxes, insurance, etc. and you are quickly over the $3,500 price point to even barely break even. Which is already an expensive rent for your average family. Not to mention that this rate should allow a family to be in a home, not a condo. So that is a hard rental price to digest for a condo unit even if you can afford it.

To break down the cost even further, this doesn’t even account for maintenance. So, while many Owners would like to rent their unit longer term to help the community, the numbers don’t make sense. Renting a 2 bed 2 bath vacation rental with these associated fees puts a rent easily at this rate or if it is a semi to higher end unit, we are talking well over $4,000 a month to even break even.

So, is opening up their vacation rental back to the VR (vacation rental) platforms the way to go? What if it sits empty and then they make no money and then worry about losing their property? For some owners, these units are their small business and their only source of income. Tourists are confused as to the message of whether or not to come. Originally the temperature was loud and clear “Maui is Closed!” This narrative was quickly recanted as the devastating effects on the economy from the fire and instant lack of tourism caused a rapid trickle-down effect.

Take Aldrin Carbonell.  Aldrin is a local boy from Lahaina and has worked at Maui El Dorado for over 17 years.  Prior to the fire he resided in his home in upper Lahaina and has been a full-time employee of El Dorado.  Since the devastating wildfire, Aldrin has been reduced to part time hours and his household of 8 have had to live in a different home with family.  Despite his home remaining intact- the environment is so toxic and un-livable that he must keep his family somewhere else.  Issues of safety, air quality let alone simple environmental stress and trauma are all factors that weigh heavily on his mind.  And what about those other folks that lost the ability to live in their home due to such factors, but they didn’t lose their home completely?  They are getting denied for many of the aid programs out there because their house didn’t perish in the fire.  So even though they also are displaced, they are not receiving the aid that they need as well.  The effects keep trickling down.

With little to no tourism at the resort, Aldrin’s full-time hours have been reduced and he fears that if this continues, he will be out of a job.  This is the trickle-down effect of the lack of tourism and Aldrin is just one of many that are hanging on by a thread.  So many have already lost their jobs completely with no glimmer of light that they will return to work any time soon.

Map of Maui

MAUI IS OPEN.  Make no mistake about that.  We are open, we are raw, and we are searching for solutions to the myriad of complex problems that have been born out of this destruction to Lahaina.  Visiting Maui, with a respectful heart and a helping hand is yet another way that you can support the Island that we all love.  Staying in properties that are meant to host tourists is a gift you bring to us.  Let us welcome you with Aloha in our hearts, serve you food in our restaurants, wave hello to you in the corridors of our associations.  Let us thank you for the blessing of your arrival, which brings new energy and fresh faces for us to share our Aloha with.  Love is only impactful when you give it someone as a gift.  It is not just a feeling to feel, it is an action and a blessing to be given away.  And the more we can give the better. 

We will find a way to house our local community.  And your visits here will support their employment so they can support their families once they do stabilize and the Island gives them their place to call home.  Maui is not just the name of an Island.  Maui lives and was born of the ocean floor.  Just as the tides ebb and flow, Maui will find a way to rise again.

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