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While visitors to the seven national parks in Hawaii in 2013 dropped 4.2 percent from the prior year, they still brought $312 million in economic benefits to Hawaii and supported 3,665 jobs last year, according to a new report released Friday by the National Park Service.
Thanks to inflation and the 16-day government shutdown in October, these latest statewide economic figures are somewhat lower than the 2012 results.
Overall spending was flat, and approximately 58 fewer jobs were supported, according to the peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas, Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz for the National Park Service.
That said, the new report shows that national park tourism produces results and is a significant driver in the national economy where it returns $10 for every $1 that is invested in the National Park Service, said Pacific West Regional Director Chris Lehnertz.
“The national parks of Hawaii attract visitors from across the country and around the world,” Lehnertz said. “Whether they are out for an afternoon, a school field trip or a monthlong family vacation, visitors come to have a great experience and end up spending a little money along the way.”
Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said the state’s national parks highlight the unique experiences that continue to draw visitors and help sustain the tourism economy.
“The Hawaiian Islands are a one-of-a-kind destination from our vast natural environment to our diverse history,” he said.
While tourists made up the greatest percentage of visitors to the state’s national parks in 2013, overall results varied.
While Haleakala National Park, Pu’uhoua o Honaunau National Historical Park and Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site posted year-over-year visitor drops between 2012 and 2013, Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument saw gains.
Year-over-year spending gains also occurred at the volcanoes park, World War II monument, Kalaupapa and Kaloko-Honokohau. But year-over-year spending declined at Pu’uhonua, Haleakala and Pu’ukohola Heiau.
Cindy Orlando, superintendent at the volcanoes park, cited many factors that contribute to the park’s popularity, including the ease of viewing the Kilauea eruption, the many free cultural and scientific programs and the reopening of Volcano House.
The 2013 report reflects a trend of increasing visitation to the park over the last five years, Orlando said, as well as higher spending by visitors in local communities.
Although the pace of growth at the volcanoes park contracted slightly from 2012 to 2013, year-over-year visitation increased 6.7 percent last year to 1.58 million visitors and spending rose 10.2 percent to $124.9 million.
Spending growth supported 1,476 jobs, a gain of 123 positions from the prior year.
(c)2014 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Distributed by MCT Information Services.