Travel advisors navigate customer uncertainty over Maui trips

In the wake of the deadly and destructive wildfires on Maui, advisors whose clients have trips planned to the Valley Isle are reporting varied reactions. Some clients want to cancel, some remain unsure and others want to support the island via tourism.

Meanwhile, those advisors are walking the line of showing support to the island and local suppliers while balancing client needs and expectations.

“It has been a really case-by-case basis,” Joanna Kuflik, director of travel services at membership-based agency Marchay in New York, said of clients traveling to Maui in the coming weeks and months. 

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Clients with Maui travel plans this year largely still want to go and support the island, Kuflik said. Marchay has been in touch with hotel partners on Maui for updates and to talk about potential hiccups, such as impacts on staffing. Hotels have been informative and have encouraged visits to unaffected areas, she said.

“I think there’s something to be said for supporting the island during this really, really difficult time for them, while ensuring that the member still has the same experience and amenities and trip that they would be wanting,” Kuflik said.

Dani Johnson, an advisor with Coastline Travel in Garden Grove, Calif., has been fielding multiple inquiries from clients. They are asking such things as whether locals want visitors, if restaurants are open and how hotels are managing. 

She’s seen pushback to visiting Maui on social media, with visitors encouraged to stay away while the island recovers. But at the same time, suppliers want business.

“You just have so [many] different messages being brought up about this,” Johnson said, and clients are clearly nervous. 

MAST Travel Network member agencies have also been fielding calls from nervous clients, said president and COO John Werner. Especially for those traveling next spring, advisors have been encouraging them not to cancel and to instead see what happens going forward. 

At the same time, they’ve been busy rebooking those with trips in the more immediate future to other islands or, in some cases, other parts of Maui. But Werner said some are not comfortable visiting Maui right now.

“Every time I talk to another one of our members about a trip they have going, it really depends on the clients’ feelings about whether they should go or not,” he said.

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It’s a delicate balance, especially as government and tourism officials are sending the message that Maui is open outside of affected areas.

“The economic impact is already severe, and it’s just that much worse if the revenue doesn’t come in to help the recovery,” Werner said.

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