Sep 7, 2023 - Podcasts

Maui’s new message to tourists

It's been about a month since the Lahaina wildfire broke out on Maui, and now the local community is facing another hardship: a severe economic downturn.

The big picture: Most of Hawai'i's residents depend on tourism to pay the bills. With the drop in travel to Maui, locals and government officials are now urging people back.

Axios Today staff reading recommendations:

Guests: Axios' Sara Kehaulani Goo and Alex Fitzpatrick.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Robin Linn and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can send questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.


NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It's Thursday, September 7th.

I'm Niala Boodhoo.

Today: a new era for Airbnb. Plus, the latest from Ukraine - including Blinken's surprise visit to Kyiv.

And, our One Big Thing: Maui's new message to tourists.

NIALA: At least 17 people were killed and dozens injured yesterday by a Russian missile at a Ukrainian market in the eastern part of the country.

It's the deadliest attack in Ukraine in months.

And it all happened the same day U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a surprise visit to Kyiv.

BLINKEN: We will continue to stand by Ukraine's side, and today we're announcing new assistance totaling more than $1 billion in this common effort.

That's Blinken at a joint news conference yesterday with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Blinken says the new aid will support the military's long term needs and help fund equipment to clear Russian land mines. Ukraine is now the world's most heavily mined country – with about 30% of its land contaminated.

Blinken also met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday. This is his fourth visit to Ukraine since the war began.

NIALA: It's been about a month since the Lahaina wildfire broke out on Maui, and now the local community is facing another hardship, a severe economic downturn. Most of Hawaii's residents depend on tourism to pay the bills, but there's been a drop in travel costing the entire state $9 million a day. That's according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

So now, the local government has a new message for tourists. Axios' Sara Goo is here with what they have to say. Hi Sara.


NIALA: Sarah. What's Hawaii's new message to tourists?

SARA: Come back or come visit Maui, come visit Hawaii. It's I think a bit of a unique message that they're trying to pivot to. Because as you remember, when the fires broke out, it was a real emergency, and they needed to get tourists home. They needed to get people out of a dangerous situation. They needed to grieve. They needed to find victims of the fire. And that's, of course, taken weeks to do.

But at the same time that they're dealing with this, I think they're realizing that they are incredibly dependent on tourism for their economy, so it's really hard to be grieving and trying to find housing, while also not then having a job, right, because either the businesses are slowing down, there's not enough people in the restaurants, in the hotels, at the airport, so that tends to affect nearly everyone on the island who has some connection either directly or indirectly from the tourism economy.

NIALA: And speaking of connections, you have a deep connection to Hawaii. How is your family?

SARA: Oh, thanks for asking. I do. I have a lot of family there. My grandmother's from there. My cousins live there. Thankfully, they're safe, and their homes were safe, although it looked very dodgy for a while. But, some of them work in the tourism business. Everyone knows someone who did die in the fire. They've been going to funerals lately, so they're really reeling from all of this in many ways at the same time.

NIALA: Given all of that, what are ways people can be respectful tourists in Maui?

SARA: Right, and that's the other message is come visit, but be respectful. They don't want tourists to go to the affected areas. They don't want people taking selfies in front of the ashes. How terrible would that be? And a lot of people who are displaced by the fire are living in some hotels in the Lahaina area, so they're able to repurpose the shelter that they do have from the tourism industry in that part of the island, so they've literally printed a map and said, come to this area, but not this area of the island on Maui.

So the bottom line is, the west side of Maui is closed, and the rest of Maui is open and they would love to have tourists who are respectful. And chatter I've seen on Facebook, in particular, where there's people looking to go visit Maui have asked locals, Where should I go? Where can I buy goods from a local business? Where can I volunteer? And a lot of people are doing that. You see videos of them going to Costco and dropping off a donation right off of getting off the plane before they had to, you know, their vacation spot. And I think that's really welcome.

And I think that this is yet another major disaster, I would put the pandemic first and that most recently that have, you know, given rise to these conversations about, as we rebuild, how do we want to do that, that honors both our history, our traditions, supports truly local people, and also finds a balance in welcoming people.

NIALA: Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios Editor in Chief. Thanks, Sara.

SARA: Thank you.

NIALA: In a moment: why new Airbnb rules could go beyond New York City.

Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.

New York City is cracking down on short-term rentals like Airbnb and Vrbo and since the announcement earlier this week some are calling this essentially the end of Airbnb as we know it.

Under these new rules, short-term stays must be registered with the city, or face up to $5,000 in fines. Can these types of rentals survive in New York? And will we start seeing this across the country?

Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick has been covering this. Hi Alex.

ALEX FITZPATRICK: Hey, thanks for having me.

NIALA: Why is New York City making this move?

ALEX: Well, the rules themselves aren't really new, it's the registration that's new, and it's to enforce long standing rules that were just never really enforced across New York City about short-term housing. And those rules include: you're not really supposed to list a rental for fewer than 30 days, there's a maximum of two guests and, the host should be sort of on the property. You know and one other noteworthy thing is that the hosts and visitors have to leave the doors unlocked so people can access the entire place while you're there. And people just don't want that. Most people don't want their host, when they're staying at an Airbnb, to be able to wander in and out of their, you know, property or the bedroom where they're staying, right?

NIALA: So this move, or this enforcement, is expected to dramatically reduce the list of available shortterm rentals in New York City?

ALEX: Yeah, that's right. Airbnb has said that they've got nearly 15,000 hosts across New York City, But as of the end of August, the city's only approved 257 permits out of about 3,250 applications. So, you're gonna see a lot fewer Airbnb listings in New York City basically immediately.

NIALA: Alex, are there people who are happy about this move because they've been unhappy about Airbnb's effect on the housing industry across New York?

ALEX: Yeah, critics of short term rentals say that because landlords are essentially renting or listing their rooms and apartments on Airbnb and other platforms instead of renting them out to locals. It's effectively decreasing the supply of housing for locals and increasing the price.

NIALA: And do we expect that other cities will follow New York City's lead on this?

ALEX: They certainly could. I think many will wait and see what happens to New York City's tourism industry. Airbnb has warned that this move stands to curtail the city's tourism income. Whether that happens is a little bit questionable. So I think many are sort of waiting to see.

A lot of cities have, in recent years, tried to take new steps to regulate Airbnb. Just a few months ago, New Orleans issued a bunch of new restrictions, uh, of its own. And it's not just Airbnb, it's, you know, Vrbo and Booking and all sorts of other platforms as well.

NIALA: Alex Fitzpatrick edits Axios' What's Next newsletter. Thanks, Alex.

ALEX: Sure.

NIALA: Before we go today as promised, our team is sharing our summer reading recommendations, as we hang on to summer for a bit longer.

NIALA: Before we go today, as promised, our team is sharing our summer reading recommendations, as we hang on to summer for a bit longer.

ALEX SUGIURA: Hey, this is Alex Sugiura. I'm the sound engineer and producer here on Axios Today. A couple books I'd like to recommend for our listeners are Bob Dylan's, "The Philosophy of Modern Song" and Lydia Sling's "Mobility." While not great beach reads, since they're both hard covers, I think they give two different ways of looking into the kind of dizzying nuance required to live in these times, so check 'em out.

ROBIN LINN: Hi, I'm one of the producers, Robin Linn. This summer I read the latest in the "Thursday Murder Club Series." So his main characters live in a peaceful English retirement village and instead of a weekly book club, they get together to talk about historic unsolved murders, and then of course, they actually have to solve a murder. It's a cute concept, but really it's the funny writing and totally spot on dialogue that makes this such a good read.

ALEX BOTTI: Hi, this is Alexandra Botti. I'm the supervising producer of Axios Today, and I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook of "The Verifiers" by Jane Pek. It follows a young woman who gets a job at, kind of, an online dating detective agency where she susses out the truth about people online. And gets caught up in a missing person's case. I really loved following that main character on her bike rides around New York as she investigated. And there's a really lovely and sometimes hilarious immigrant family story at the heart of the book as well

LYDIA MCMULLEN-LAIRD: My name is Lydia McMullen-Laird, and I'm a producer for Axios Today. This summer I've been really enjoying reading short stories. The last short story I read is called "The Great Silence" by Ted Chiang. It's a really poignant, funny, and heartbreaking story about outer space and human language told from the point of view of a parrot, of all things. I really think short stories are the underrated, smart, brevity novel, and I recommend them to anyone, especially if you don't have a lot of time to read.

NIALA: My last summer read is something that Rebecca Makkai just recommended, "Romantic Comedy," by Curtis Sittenfeld, and I've loved all of her books. This one is such a great summer read because it's a love story, but it's also a really messy love story, which I find kind of inspiring. I am going to be starting my fall reading with "The Covenant of Water," which was an Oprah Book Club selection, but I am really interested in this because it is set in Kerala, which is where my ancestors are from, and it's an epic that spans from 1900 to 1977. Happy reading!

That's it for us today.

I'm Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we'll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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