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It’s a balancing act for Maui businesses as the island adapts to an influx in visitors

Updated: Apr. 14, 2021 at 7:27 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Businesses are back open and Maui’s West Side is bustling once again.

“I would say it’s busier than I was expecting,” said Ryan Ninman.

Ninman and his family are visiting from Oregon. It’s their second time to the Valley Isle and they’re glad to be back.

“I was expecting fewer people and turns out it’s more people than usual,” said Ninman’s sister Jordan.

Looking down Front Street in Lahaina, it looks like pre-pandemic days -- tourists crowding sidewalks, shops and restaurants.

The town is one of the state’s hot spots in the tourism rebound.

Visitors said having a negative COVID test result within 72 hours of arriving in the islands and following mask and social distance mandates don’t seem to be an issue.

“I think it’s pretty good. The rules about going to the restaurants and using masks are really good and the airport is really strict with the rules,” said Leidy Penuela, who is visiting from Colombia. “That is good because they are protecting the island.”

However, for business owners and residents, many are trying to adapt to accommodating larger crowds.

“Nobody expected this,” said Jonathan Lee, the executive director for J&J Consulting.

Lee does consulting for six businesses on Maui, and he says reopening with multiple restrictions and a shortage of workers has been quite the balancing act.

“Tourism is keeping people afloat, but we just aren’t able to represent ourselves as well as we used to,” Lee said.

“I think that’s the frustration for a lot of small business owners especially where they are trying to provide a service and they’re doing it with a lot of pride and they’re not able to fill that need the way they would like to do it -- just because going from zero to hero so quickly,”

Lee calls on the state and county governments for better communication going forward.

“We have to group together as a community to get all this solved,” he said.

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