National park visits in Hawaii decline in 2020 amid pandemic

National park visits in Hawaii decline in 2020 amid pandemic
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is increasing their fees along with some other parks across the nation. (Source: HNN File)

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — Visitation at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has declined by more than half last year compared with 2019 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, park officials said.

The National Park Service said 589,775 people visited the Big Island park in 2020 compared with the nearly 1.4 million people who visited the year before, West Hawaii Today reported Saturday. That’s a 57% decline.

Park officials anticipated an increase early last year following the annual boost from the winter holidays, and had reported a slight 2% increase in guests in January and February compared with the previous year.

However, the park closed between March and June as a safety measure intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and visitation remained low even when it reopened because of a decline in tourism, officials said. Hawaii tourism dropped significantly as a result of travel restrictions and business closures caused by the pandemic.

Nearly every National Park Service operation, including in Hawaii, was affected by the pandemic, the agency said in a statement.

“Park staff continue to work hard to keep Hawaii 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,” Hawaii Volcanos National Park Superintendent Rhonda Loh said. “Currently, almost all trails and backcountry areas that were open before the pandemic are open again.”

Visitors are still required to wear facial coverings and are encouraged to follow safety measures such as maintaining 6 feet (1.8 meters) of space between groups and washing hands, Loh said.

Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site, on the other side of the Big Island, saw an 82% decline in visitors, officials said. Last year, 23,970 people visited the park compared with the 133,573 people who visited in 2019.

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