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Isle parks generate $153M in visitor spending

A new report from the National Parks Service estimates its four parks here generated about $153 million in visitor spending in 2012.

The parks — Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, Puuhonoua O Honaunau National Historical Park and Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site — also recorded about 2.2 million visits annually.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park brought in the bulk of both visitors and tourist spending, according to the report, released Monday, with almost 1.5 million visitors and $113 million in spending. The report said the park generated about 1,350 jobs in 2012.

The park’s value is far more than economic, Superintendent Cindy Orlando said Monday, adding that the park also offers solitude, silence, a chance for reflection and the opportunity to hear native birds in the wilderness.

“Those are harder to put an economic value on,” Orlando said.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park offers another kind of value, too, she said, as a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve, it serves as a model for other protected wilderness areas around the globe. Park officials are frequently asked to talk about their best management practices with people running similar parks elsewhere, particularly Asia.

Orlando said the federal government shut down late last year demonstrated to many people in communities near shuttered national parks just how valuable the parks were to local economies. She said the park has value to visitors and island residents.

“It’s always exciting to share how much of a positive impact our national and international visitors have on the economic viability of our island community,” she said. “On the same note, it’s also worth contemplating what the park means to our Hawaii Island residents. That’s difficult to define with a dollar amount,” she said.

The park has been averaging 1.5 million to 1.6 million visitors annually, and Orlando said it has room to accommodate more visitors. She said the vast majority of visitors to Hawaii Island, even if they are only here for a day or two, make the trek to see the park.

“Hawaii Island has been on an upward trend in arrivals and spending over the past few years, and a major contributor driving this demand is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park,” Big Island Visitors Bureau Executive Director Ross Birch said. “As the No. 1 attraction for the island, and sometimes the state, it is not a surprise to see the economic impact the park has on our community.”

Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park recorded the second-highest number of visitors for Hawaii Island parks, with 442,350 for 2012. The park generated about $24 million in visitor spending, which helped support 285 jobs. Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park had about 153,600 visitors, creating about $8.2 million in spending and supporting the economy for about 99 jobs.

Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site had about 134,400 visitors, creating $7.2 million in spending and generating about 86 jobs.

A message left with an official with Puuhonua O Honaunau and Kaloko-Honokohau parks was not returned.

U.S. Geological Survey economics conducted the visitor spending analysis. The report shows $14.7 billion of direct spending by 283 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park.

This spending supported 243,000 jobs nationally, with 201,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.75 billion.

The majority of the jobs supported were in restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, which made up 39 percent of the jobs, the report said. Hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts made up 27 percent of the jobs, and other amusement and recreation jobs accounted for another 20 percent.

The full report is available at nature.nps.gov/socialscience/economics.cfm.

Email Erin Miller at emiller@westhawaiitoday.com.


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