Jack’s Tours comes to an end

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Jack's Tours buses are parked at the company's headquarters Thursday in Hilo. Jack's announced its last day of business will be July 31.

The decline in tourism on the Big Island following the Kilauea eruption claimed another business Wednesday when Hilo-based tour company Jack’s Tours announced its intention to close at the end of the month.

Jack’s Tours, a tourist staple on the Big Island for more than half a century, announced Wednesday that it could no longer afford to continue its operations based on the sharp downturn in visitors to the island after the lower Puna eruption began in early May.

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“The downturn in tourism due to the volcanic activity on Hawaii Island has affected our business significantly and, unfortunately, we are unable to continue operations due to the significant decrease in business levels with no foreseeable improvement in the near future,” read a statement on the company’s website.

The final day of the business for Jack’s will be Tuesday, July 31. Had the company stayed open until Aug. 9, it would have marked its 53rd anniversary.

Other businesses dependent upon overseas visitors have similarly suffered downturns as the tourism industry reacts to the eruption’s developments.

“Any type of closure like this is sad,” said Ross Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau. “Any time we see a negative impact like this, it’s just more challenges for everyone.”

Birch said that, while Jack’s may not have had a particularly large amount of employees or resources, its potential to reach a large number of tourists made it “one of the larger players on the island.”

The failure of Jack’s to survive, Birch said, was a combination of problems affecting all tourist-related businesses on the island. These problems include the months-long closure of the primary unit of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the lack of public access to the lava flow, widespread inaccuracies reported about the eruption, and the decline in cruise ship visitors — compounded by a period between May and June when the most frequent cruise ship visitor to the island, Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Pride of America, ceased all port calls to the island.

“There’s no one specific cause for any business that’s gone out of business during this time,” Birch said.

Birch said Jack’s attempted to adapt to the closure of the national park — one of the largest tourist attractions in the state — by developing alternative tour routes to different attractions. However, Birch said, creating a new product takes time, and the change apparently was not sufficient to save the business.

However, Birch said many tourism-related businesses have reported upswings in recent weeks, adding that the majority of business closures occurred in the early days of the eruption.

Birch said that the closure of Jack’s Tours was not necessarily a bellwether of harder times for the industry.

“I don’t ever think that not having enough tour operators means we’ll get fewer visitors,” Birch said. “That’s not what our market research shows.”

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Representatives of Jack’s Tours declined to respond to repeated requests for comment.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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