PHILADELPHIA (AP) — He’s most often associated with Boston, the hometown of his legendary rock band, but Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler has a soft spot in his heart for the Hawaiian island of Maui.
The singer, who has a home on the island, wants vacationers to return to Maui to help the island’s economy — devastated by wildfires last month — recover.
Near the end of the opening night of the band’s farewell tour in Philadelphia Saturday, Tyler urged audience members not to be afraid to travel to the island again.
“When you think about Lahaina, think about south Maui,” Tyler told the audience at the Wells Fargo Center shortly before performing the band’s biggest hit, “Dream On.”
“Paia and Hana: it’s still there,” he said, of two other Maui resort towns unscathed by the fires. “It’s a place to go and do, you know, the love thing. It’s still open, it’s still happening.
“Everything’s beautiful, except we gotta come there and make it more beautiful, OK?” he said.
Immediately after the fires obliterated the seaside tourist town of Lahaina, officials including Gov. Josh Green told tourists to stay away during the island’s recovery.
But they soon reversed that advice, realizing how essential tourism is to the island’s economy — and to the prospects of its residents returning to a normal life anytime soon. Tyler’s daughter, Mia, was among those initially discouraging tourists from coming to Maui shortly after the fires.
The number of people listed as missing from the fires stood at 385 on Friday, Hawaii officials said.
The flames turned Lahaina into rubble in a few short hours on Aug. 8. Wind gusts topping 60 mph (97 kph) ripped through the town, causing the flames to spread exceptionally quickly.
Half the town’s 12,000 residents are now living in hotels and short-term vacation rentals. Reconstruction is expected to take years and cost billions.