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Tourist Traffic At Hawaiian National Parks Way Down This Year


Visitation to national park sites in the Hawaiian islands, including Haleakala National Park, is way down this year. NPS photo of Haleakala.

With fuel prices up, airfares up, and incomes stagnant if not down, is it any surprise that visitation to national parks on the Hawaiian Islands is down quite a bit this year?

According to National Park Service statistics, not only was traffic to Hawaii's national park units off nearly 11 percent in May, but year-to-date visitation is off more than 7 percent, dropping from 1.9 million through the first five months of 2008 to 1.7 million this year.

The stats show that for this May there were 383,725 visitors to the Hawaiian parks, down 41,483 from 342,242 in 2008.

And while the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor typically is Hawaii's top tourist attraction, visitation is off nearly 13 percent, dropping from 122,788 in May 2008 to 107,203 this past May.

At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, May visitation was off 8.7 percent from the year before, down to 93,725 visitors this year. Haleakala National Park saw a shocking 17.2 percent decrease from 106,353 visitors last year to 88,057 this May.

If there's any upside to these numbers, it's that you might be able to get a pretty good deal on lodging if you can afford to reach Hawaii.


Heck, outside of Honolulu (which I can't comment on because I have not visited) it was never that expensive to find lodgings in Hawaii before. I've been to the Big Island twice and Maui once and never paid more than $100 a night -- and sometimes significantly less. And that was in the so-called flush times of the middle decade.

If any of you national parkers have not yet been to Hawaii Volcanoes, you've missed out on one of the really awesome (in the old sense of the word) sites in the system -- all the better now that it's steaming and rolling lava into the sea. Go.

There is no question that visitor numbers are markedly down in Hawaii. It takes awhile for the economic impacts of the mainland to affect Hawaii, because many people make their reservations several months out. However, once the recession reaches the state it tends to last longer then it does in most of the other states. Tourism is the primary economic engine here, and the national parks in the state are important drawing cards. I manage a small visitor accommodation property on Maui and have contacts with many others involved in the visitor service industry. We are actually doing o.k. so far, but many others are feeling the pinch. I have noticed that the traffic on the road to Haleakala is down considerably. For those who do come to Hawaii, there are lots of great bargains that can be had, and you won't feel crowded.

Airfares are up? Really? It seems to me like flights have been very affordable & lower than in recent years. Admittedly, I haven't researched costs to fly to Hawaii. That's not to say people aren't going...but I'd imagine it's due to cutting back rather than increased airfares.

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