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Century-old Pioneer Inn among property casualties of West Maui wildfires

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                                A photo from Donnell Tate shows George “Keoki” Freeland standing in front of the family’s Pioneer Inn next to his wife, Betty Hay Freeland, and son, George Warren Hay Freeland.


    A photo from Donnell Tate shows George “Keoki” Freeland standing in front of the family’s Pioneer Inn next to his wife, Betty Hay Freeland, and son, George Warren Hay Freeland.

UPDATE: 11 a.m. Thursday

Best Western Hotels and Outrigger this morning are responding to the loss of their hotels to the Maui wildfires and are prioritizing the safety of guests and workers.

Best Western Hotels said this morning in a statement, “We are deeply saddened by the loss of the Best Western Pioneer Inn, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii on August 9.”

“All hotel guests and staff were safely evacuated,” the hotel company said. “We would like to express our sincere gratitude to emergency personnel for their exceptional support. Our hearts are with our guests, associates, and the entire Hawaii community during this time of immense challenge.”

Monica Salter, spokesperson for Outrigger which completed its purchase of The Plantation Inn in July, said this morning in an email, “Outrigger’s top priority at this time is ensuring the safety and well-being of both our guests and employees.”

“We are now working tirelessly to ensure that all of our employees who have been displaced have shelter and current guests are relocated as necessary within Outrigger’s properties across the Hawaiian Islands,” Salter said. “We extend our heartfelt appreciation to the first responders for their efforts and thank our guests for their patience and understanding.”

Meanwhile, other hotel companies on Maui and elsewhere across the islands are working to assist displaced kamaaina.

Ben Rafter, president and CEO of Springboard Hospitality, said, “Maui Beach Hotel and Maui Seaside are on the other side of the island and thus are operating as normal. Not surprisingly, both hotels will be full for the foreseeable future. We have set a fixed rate for kamaaina that are impacted by the fires and closed out wholesale channels.”

Teri Orton, general manager of the Hawai’i Convention Center, said the center had been prepared yesterday to shelter as many as 4,000 visitors and residents, including homeless individuals, and their pets.

However, there were logistical challenges on Maui due to the lack of power, phone and cell phone service, and internet. Officials also had difficulties initially in arranging transportation as the large busses needed special escorts on the bypass.

Orton said shelter guests peaked at about 69 around midnight, with about 50 guests arriving between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.

“All of them were visitors,” she said.

She said she was told that many evacuees decided to stay at the airport to wait for flights out.

“Hawaiian even opened up part of a wing in holding area,” she said.

Orton said other visitors appeared to have found accommodations on Oahu and went straight to those hotels to continue their vacations.

However, she said she is expecting more arrivals today. Various forms of transportation are available for evacuees from the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport to the center.

Uber has coordinated with state and federal authorities and has announced that it will provide discounted rides to the center, up to $40 off when applying the discount code MAUI23 in the wallet of the Uber app, to Maui fire evacuees arriving on Oahu.

Ramona Prieto, Uber’s West Region director of public policy and communications, said in a statement, “We stand with the communities impacted by this devastating fire and we will continue to assess the situation as it evolves to identify any additional areas of support.”


Two Maui hotels are among the massive property losses of the wildfire sweeping through historic downtown Lahaina.

The historic Best Western Pioneer Inn in the heart of Lahaina was “obliterated — unfortunately, it was just destroyed,” according to Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association, who spent today tracking visitor industry impacts and helping to coordinate assistance for guests, workers, the broader community as well as first responders and emergency workers.

Mike White, a Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) board member, confirmed that The Plantation Inn, on 174 Lahainaluna Rd. in the heart of Lahaina Town, also has burned down. He said he expects that there could more hotels in Lahaina that have sustained damages and perhaps in nearby Napili-Honokowai where there are quite a number of smaller properties, but getting updates has been challenging as phone and internet service in West Maui has been down.

The Best Western Pioneer Inn, built in 1901 by George Alan Freeland, is one of nine buildings that constitute the Lahaina Historic District. The 34-room hotel was located at 658 Wharf St. It joined Best Western Hotels & Resorts in 1997, and since 2016 had been a member of the Historic Hotels of America since 2016. Best Western did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

”The loss of all business is Lahaina is so tragic along with hundreds of homes,” White said. “The devastation is so widespread it’s going to take a Herculean effort to provide housing and to get the businesses stood up again.”

Outrigger Hospitality Group closed on a purchase of The Plantation Inn in late July as part of a deal with also included the Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel. White, who had spent 37 years as general manager of both properties, retired July 25.

Outrigger could not be reached for an immediate comment; however, White said the 18-room bed-and-breakfast, which also housed Gerard’s Restaurant, had employed about 10 workers.

White said The Plantation Inn was built in the late 1980s; however, it was designed to reflect the old-fashioned charm of Lahaina, which had once been Hawaii’s capitol.

“It was a great little property,” White said. “When you were inside the property, you felt like you were in a different world.It was quiet and quaint. Many of the staff were there a long time, some were there over 20 years.”

He said Ka‘anapali hotels to the best of his knowledge so far have been buffered from the wildfires by the golf courses and roadways. Still, he said he has confirmed that at least eight of the staff at the Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel and The Plantation Inn have lost their homes.

“Imagine combining the loss of your home with the potential loss of your job. It’s simply heartbreaking,” White said.

Hannemann, a recent appointee to the HTA board, said it’s still too early to assess all the impacts that the wildfires and winds have had on the visitor industry and to the community. Most of the focus now is on crisis management, he said.

“We are concentrating on No. 1 making sure that our guests have a place to stay and that there’s a place to stay for workers and people in the community who may have lost their homes,” Hannemann said. Hotels that are open are 100% occupied. They are fully reaching out into the community.”

Hannemann said the visitor industry is also helping to coordiante donations and supply drops for those in need.

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