Devastating wildfires have swept across the island of Maui in Hawaii, resulting in the deaths of at least 55 people and the destruction of neighborhoods. The resort town of Lahaina, which attracts two million tourists annually, has been completely destroyed. Dry conditions and strong winds have fueled three major wildfires on Maui, leading to the evacuation of thousands of tourists and locals. This natural disaster is considered to be the deadliest in Hawaii since a tsunami in 1960. Additionally, there are fires on other islands in the state, though they are not as severe.
This catastrophic event is part of a summer marked by record-breaking temperatures and fires around the world. Southern Europe experienced wildfires that led to the evacuation of thousands of people in Greece, Spain, and Portugal, while fires in western Canada caused widespread smoke across parts of the United States.
Those planning to travel to Hawaii may be concerned about the safety of visiting the region. Currently, the fires are contained to Maui and the Big Island, making the other islands in the Hawaiian archipelago safe to visit. Local officials are advising travelers with upcoming trips to Maui to cancel or reschedule in order to relieve the strain on local infrastructure. United and American airlines have already cancelled flights to Maui, but outbound flights are still operating.
The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has updated its travel advice for the US to highlight the situation in Hawaii. While the wildfires are described as highly dangerous and unpredictable, no travel warning has been issued for the region. The FCDO advises individuals to contact their travel operator or accommodation provider before traveling to areas that may be affected by wildfires and to ensure they have appropriate insurance coverage.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) strongly discourages non-essential travel to Maui at this time and urges visitors on the island for non-essential reasons to leave, as rescue and recovery efforts continue. However, travel to the Big Island is still permitted, and visitors are encouraged to stay informed about any updates that may affect their stay.
If you have booked a trip to the affected islands, it is advisable to speak with your airline or tour operator to discuss your options. While it is unlikely that cancellation refunds will be issued for unaffected islands, Hawaii’s state government advises against non-essential travel to Maui, and flights have been cancelled. Holiday companies and airlines may show more flexibility in making changes to plans given the extraordinary circumstances. If you have booked a package holiday to the impacted islands, you should be entitled to a full refund under the Package Travel Regulations.
It is important to review the coverage provided by your travel insurance policy, as policies can vary. Since the FCDO has not issued a travel advisory warning against travel to Hawaii, cancellation costs may not be covered. However, if the wildfires significantly impact your trip, such as rendering you unable to travel or forcing you to return home early, you may be eligible for coverage.
In conclusion, while the devastating wildfires in Maui have raised concerns about the safety of traveling to Hawaii, it is still possible to visit the other islands in the archipelago. Travelers with plans to visit Maui are encouraged to cancel or reschedule their trips, and airlines have already cancelled flights to the island. The FCDO has not issued a travel warning but advises individuals to check with their travel operators and ensure they have appropriate insurance. Ultimately, the decision to cancel or proceed with travel should be based on the latest government advice and individual circumstances.