Maui Business Report 2013
(page 3 of 5)
Small towns mean big business for Maui tourism
by Lehia Apana
Photo: Courtesy of Maui’s Friday Town Parties
The search for a more “authentic” experience is drawing an increasing number travelers to bypass packaged resorts and big cities in favor of historic, small towns, and Maui is tapping into the trend, say industry watchers.
In a sign of the times, Japanese tour company JTB launched a “Maui Sneaker Tour” in April, leading visitors on walking trips through outposts like Makawao, Paia and Lahaina. That’s welcome news to Maui Visitors Bureau Executive Director Terryl Vencl, who says she’s been touting the appeal of Maui’s country towns for years.
“I think visitor travel has changed, but I also think that our small towns are a little more open,” says Vencl. “They’re constantly renewing and refreshing themselves to offer the kind of experience and value that a visitor wants — while remaining true and authentic to who they are.”
The Maui County Office of Economic Development has taken note of the trend and are seeking to steer more visitors -- and locals -- toward these out-of-the-way island destinations with a “Friday Town Parties” program. Building off a “First Friday” street party started independently by Wailuku merchants in 2008, the county program rotates between Wailuku, Lahaina, Makawao and Kihei, with weekly events featuring pop-up vendors, food and entertainment to each town’s historic center.
Today, an average of 3,200 people celebrate at Wailuku’s First Friday, while the roomier Kihei event attracts up to 6,000, according to organizers.
The events have been a boon to merchants, who keep their doors open late to accommodate revelers.
“Most restaurants enjoy a 30 percent increase on those nights,” says Lahaina coordinator Lynn Donovan. “Other merchants are seeing visitors return to purchase in the following days after an event.”
Looking for some small-town fun? Check out this schedule for Maui’s Friday Town Parties.
First Friday, 6–9 p.m.
Second Friday, 6–9 p.m.
Third Friday, 6–9 p.m.
Fourth Friday, 6–9 p.m.
Azeka Shopping Center - Mauka
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