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Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park sees biggest visitor drop since 1966

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM / 2019
                                Visitors try to get a glimpse of Halemaumau Crater through the mist at the Steaming Bluff overlook in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM / 2019

    Visitors try to get a glimpse of Halemaumau Crater through the mist at the Steaming Bluff overlook in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

Visitor arrivals to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park fell some 57% as the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on statewide tourism.

The park reported last week that just 589,775 people visited Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes in 2020, down from 1,368,376 visitors in 2019. The arrivals count was the worst at the park since 1966 when there were 607,600 visitors.

The best year for visitation to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park since 1921 was 2017 when 2,016,702 visitors came. Challenges related to the eruption of Kilauea Volcano contributed to a drop in visitations to 1,116,891 in 2018.

Park officials said visitation prior to the pandemic was up 2% over 2019, based on slight upticks in January and February 2020.

Government COVID-19 restrictions and fear of travel have adversely affected nearly every National Park Service operation. The Hawaii park, along with 66 other national parks, was closed for two months or more. While the park has mostly reopened, only 222,240 visitors came in January, a drop of 19.9% from the same month in 2020.

“Park staff continue to work hard to keep Hawai‘i Volcanoes a safe place for our community and visitors to recreate outdoors, and a safe place to work, by implementing and following federal and local public health guidelines during this pandemic,” Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Rhonda Loh said in a statement. “Currently, almost all trails and backcountry areas that were open before the pandemic are open again. We continue to urge everyone to recreate responsibly and maintain physical distance and small group size, wear masks, and frequently sanitize hands.”

While Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park has mostly reopened, new safety measures are required. Visitors must wear masks in all NPS buildings and on federally managed lands when physical distancing cannot be maintained.

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