More than 2 million visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in 2017

  • JANICE WEI/NPS photo

    Visitors eager to see the lava lake within Halema‘uma‘u Crater​ at the Kilauea summit gather along the overlook at Jaggar Museum in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

More than 2 million visitors entered Hawaii Volcanoes National Park last year and collectively spent nearly $170 million in communities around Hawaii Island.

According to recently released data from the National Park Service, a total of 2,016,702 people visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in 2017, an increase of about 200,000 from 2016.

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Similarly, the amount of money spent by visitors on the island increased, with the total jumping from $159 million in 2016 to $166 million in 2017.

Park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane said the number of visitors to the park has increased steadily each year for the past several years, particularly since the Kilauea summit eruption began in 2008. Since the eruption began, total visitors to the park have increased by 58 percent.

Ferracane said the park’s visitation rates can be seen to correlate with events on the volcanoes. This week, Ferracane said, has already seen “a huge uptick” in visitors since the lava lake at Kilauea’s summit overflowed, spilling onto the floor of Halema‘uma‘u Crater.

The $166 million spent by visitors also supported 2,020 jobs. About 23 percent of those jobs were in the restaurant industry and 18 percent at hotels.

The majority of the jobs supported by visitors — 28 percent, or 579 — fell under what the National Park Service called the “secondary effect” category. This category, Ferracane said, accounts for economic stimuli indirectly caused by visitors such as a vendor purchasing more supplies from a third party.

Ferracane noted Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the most visited site in the state. Visitor spending at the park accounted for nearly 50 percent of the $400 million spent by visitors to all parks in the state last year. Of that spending, 32 percent — or $130 million — was spent on hotels, 20 percent at restaurants, 10 percent at retail locations and the remainder on transportation, groceries, recreation, camping or gas.

Like at Hawaii Volcanoes, visitor spending at parks statewide has steadily increased each year since 2012.

Other parks on the Big Island also saw modest growth. Pu‘uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park generated $28.9 million, an increase of about 15 percent from 2016. Spending generated by Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park increased by $1 million, while spending at Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site rose by $300,000. Data from Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail was unavailable.

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Nationwide, national park visitors spent $18.2 billion in communities near national parks last year, supporting 306,000 jobs. The park that generated the most spending was Blue Ridge Parkway, the 469-mile scenic road in Appalachia, which generated $1 billion from visitors.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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