Business

Study: Visitors to Volcanoes Park Spent $88 Million

February 29, 2012, 5:47 PM HST
* Updated February 29, 5:52 PM
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Visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in 2010 contributed more than $88 million to the local economy, park officials said Tuesday.

According to a new study, spending by the 1.6 million visitors to all four national parks on the Big Island totaled more than $122 million in 2010. Entry fees to parks and the pay of their employees were not included.

Most of those visitors went to Hawaii Volcanoes, which saw 1.3 million visitors that year.

According to the study, visitors to Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park, also known as City of Refuge, spent $20.8 million locally, while those visiting Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park spent $6.6 million. Pu‘ukoholoa Heiau National Historic Site located in Kawaihae attracted $6.4 million in visitor spending.

The study said spending by visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes supported 1,163 full- and part-time jobs in the local “gateway region,” which is defined as an area with a radius of between 30 to 100 miles, depending on whether the park is in an urban or rural location. Visitors to all four Big Island national parks supported a total of 1,692 jobs islandwide.

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Cindy Orlando, superintendent of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, noted that the park is the top visitor destination on the Big Island.

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“Communities near national parks have always understood their positive fiscal impact,” Orlando said.

Jonah Van Gieson, manager and chef at Kiawe Kitchen in Volcano village, understands it. He said his business ebbs and flows according to what is happening at the nearby park.

“We notice it,” Van Gieson said. “If the [Halema‘uma‘u] crater is going off, we definitely see an increase in business.”

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Conversely, if the lava is flowing into the ocean near Kalapana, which involves a trip to lower Puna instead of into the park, then the restaurants in Volcano see business slow down, he said.

The 394 national parks across the country hosted 281 million visitors in 2010, the study said, accounting for $12 billion in direct spending. Nationally, 50% of the visitors’ spending was on lodging and restaurants followed by 19% for transportation, 13% on retail purchases and 10% for recreation.

According to the study, more than 95% of the $88 million spent by visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes – and about 93% at each of the other three Big Island sites – came from non-local visitors.

Nationwide, 29% of the park visits were day trips by local residents.

The salaries paid to National Park Service staff on the Big Island also help boost the local economy. At Hawaii Volcanoes, the combined $7.2 million paid to its 148 employees in 2010 helped create an additional 46 jobs. The 114 employees at the other three Big Island sites earned a total of $3.8 million that year which generated an additional 24 jobs, the study said.

The study was done by Daniel Stynes, a professor emeritus of recreation and resource studies at Michigan State University, and was commissioned by the National Park Service.

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