'Open for business': Tourism leaders say misinformation is driving spike in cancellations
BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Big Island businesses are seeing a spike in cancellations as images of lava carving pathways through a Puna subdivision and setting homes ablaze make international news.
And some worry worry misinformation from national news organizations, as well as a general misunderstanding of the state's geography, spurring visitors to reconsider upcoming trips.
"There has been tons of cancellations. We've lost about 10 or 14 within the past couple days," said Robert Hughes, owner of the Aloha Junction Bed and Breakfast in Volcano.
Hughes said he's been telling guests that while his bed and breakfast is located in the town of Volcano, it's still about an hour away from all the lava action.
"I try to tell them that we're far away from it and there's no activity where we are. They're afraid because they're saying the air quality is so bad," Hughes said.
"I sent out a standard email to all my guests when people were calling and asking, 'Is it right in your backyard?' and I say no," said Shannon Fisher, who owns the Aloha Crater Lodge and Lava Tube.
Tourism industry leaders are also trying to help set the record straight.
"What I'm seeing is a lot of misinformation going around globally," said George Szigeti, Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO.
"The area impacted by the volcano is 10 square miles, so the nearest point over in Kona where the resorts areas is over 100 miles away. It's very serious in that area where its happening, but the rest of the island is open for business."
Szigeti said there is absolutely no reason for travelers to change their Hawaii plans at this time.
He added that flights into both Kona and Hilo International Airports are operating normally, as well as all hotels and attractions, with the exception of those in the affected area.
The popular Hawaii Volcanoes National Park even reopened with limited services Monday.
While it's unclear how long these eruptions could last, those who have owned businesses near Kilauea volcano for decades say they're not too worried about this lull in customers.
"Things will get back to normal. I've lived on the Big Island for 45 years, so I've seen it come and go a couple times," said Hughes.
Tourism officials want to remind travelers that Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes on the planet, and that it has been erupting for the last 35 years.
Visitors are encouraged to contact their hotels or activities if they have concerns about the lava threat.
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