The Daily Scoop: Maui’s messaging tries to balance tourism with disaster recovery

Plus: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell freezes again, Bud Light targets football fans.

Family in Hawaii's tropical climate enjoying their vacation on stand up paddleboards (SUP) in the sea. Maui is thoughtfully encouraging tourism.

Still dealing with the aftermath of the deadly wildfires in Lahaina, Maui is facing another issue: a significant dip in tourism, NPR reported.

Shortly after the wildfires occurred, tourists couldn’t visit and flights were suspended, per NPR.

However, three weeks since the fires, local businesses and state tourism officials are asking for tourists to return to the majority of the island that was untouched by the fires.

“The Maui economy relies on tourism, to stay away now will just make the problem worse,” Forest, a disc jockey on Mana’o Radio, which broadcasts from Wailuku on Maui, told people outside of Hawaii, NPR reported. “Another way you can support Maui, come here.”

In 2022, tourists spent over $5.5 billion on Maui. The island usually sees around 3 million visitors annually. Now that numbers around 2,000 visitors currently and the Hawaii Tourism Authority noted that West Maui is losing over a million dollars a day. However, scores of tourists still aren’t sure they should come — or that they want to confront the tragedy.

Why it matters

The comms behind this is delicate because after understandably putting a pause on tourism during rescue and recovery efforts, the island felt the financial pressures almost immediately.

“Initially saying that all of Maui was closed … I don’t know if that was the right message,” Sne Patel, who leads the Lahaina Town Action Committee told NPR. “It’s hard to bring those individuals back.”

A new comms strategy must be made balancing Maui’s need for tourism while being respectful toward impacted residents and business owners who lost so much.

Patel told NPR that despite the damage, a lot of his neighborhood is untouched.

“I think the messaging can shift in some capacity to come and visit responsibly,” Patel told NPR. “Don’t stop where the impact site is, go directly to your resort, stay around the beaches that are right at your resort.”

A comms misstep could financially make or break this island state at this fragile moment. Hopefully, their actions pay off in a multitude of ways and help recovery efforts in the long run. Positioning is vital to a brand or place. Ensuring Hawaii positions itself properly will connect tourists to a greater purpose beyond simply traveling for fun and help them see the bigger picture that their presence is benefiting Maui’s comeback.

Editor’s Top Reads

  • Meta is now allowing Facebook users to opt out of the use of some of their data to train generative AI models, per CNBC. Meta revamped its Facebook help center with a form that lets people submit opt-out requests. A Meta spokesperson told CNBC that the company’s latest Llama 2 open-source large language model “wasn’t trained on Meta user data, and we have not launched any Generative AI consumer features on our systems yet.” The operative word being “yet.” Some data privacy proponents are questioning Meta’s methods. Meta is showing some transparency in their data gathering efforts but it might not be enough for everyone.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell froze up recently when speaking to reporters in Kentucky after a speech, according to CNN. McConnell had a similar freezing-up episode at the US Capitol in July. An aide told CNN that while the 81-year-old Kentucky Republican “feels fine,” he “will be consulting a physician prior to his next event.” McConnell is one of the most powerful people in the U.S., and his health is a matter of concern to everyone — but especially his Kentucky constituents. Now that this is a pattern, McConnell needs to be transparent about his health struggles and his future plans to finish his term or run for re-election.
  • Bud Light is working to woo back audiences with “relatable” marketing efforts geared toward football fans, the Wall Street Journal reported. Anheuser-Busch InBev debuted the new installment of its longtime NFL sponsorship with an advertisement showcasing football fans and their game-day practices. The brand’s “Easy to Enjoy” campaign has an “Easy to Sunday” advertisement that aims to connect with fans in the 27 teams Bud Light sponsors. The ad stems from an effort to be less political after a controversial promotional featuring transgender Dylan Mulvaney sparked a boycott in the spring.


Sherri Kolade is a writer at Ragan Communications. When she is not with her family, she enjoys watching Alfred Hitchcock-style films, reading and building an authentically curated life that includes more than occasionally finding something deliciously fried. Follow her on LinkedIn. Have a great PR story idea? Email her at


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