Despite the hype, the Island of Hawai‘i is open for business – but here’s what clients need to know
IN EARLY MAY, STUNNING FOOTAGE OF LAVA, free-flowing lava from Kīlauea volcano on Hawai‘i’s Big Island incited international curiosity and fascination. Depending on where you get your news from, you could be forgiven for getting the impression that the entire Island of Hawai‘i might soon be swallowed into Earth’s molten core. As the 24-hour news cycle fanned the flames of a fiery apocalypse, resident Hawaiians cringed; Kīlauea has been active since 1983. Repeating for emphasis: 1983. This wasn’t the end of Hawai‘i as we know it. In fact, it was quite the opposite; this period of sustained volcanic activity was a geological growth spurt.
BUSINESS AS USUAL
A volcano erupting in Hawai‘i? Just another Wednesday in paradise for the residents who live their lives on an island formed by five volcanoes. However, we can appreciate that prospective visitors might need some help untangling fact from fiction. CT liaised with the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority to walk back some of the sky-is-falling rhetoric to examine the data so travel advisors can inform, educate and update clients.
BY THE NUMBERS
35: The number of years since Kˉılauea’s last major eruption. Neighbouring Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984 and Hualˉalai in 1801. The takeaway here? Major events are rare and not a pressing concern for the international traveller.
10 square miles: The total area directly affected by the Kˉılauea eruption. On an island that measures 4,028-square-miles, 10 square miles represents less than one per cent.
Zero: Flights from Canada that were cancelled during the active eruption. Both Kona and Hilo International Airports are both open. Truly, business as usual.
5 per cent: The approximate increase in Hawai‘i travel among Canadian Travellers in 2018. Surprised? Colin Wood, Hawai‘i Tourism Canada account director explains: “For Canadians, the eruption actually took place during our low season, so there were very, very few trip cancellations. The other consideration was that even if a traveller decided to pass on the island of Hawai‘i, it appeared they were just choosing a different island as opposed to going to a different destination altogether.”
VOLCANO TOURISM: GET IT WHILE IT’S HOT
Visions of Mordor aside, visiting the Island of Hawai‘i during Kˉılauea’s sustained eruption offers an appealing opportunity to watch Mother Nature at work.
- Two-thirds of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is closed indefinitely but visitors can head to the park’s Kahuku Unit for ranger-guided hikes that explore geology, flora and culture amid a dynamic volcanic landscape. Access is one hour south from the park’s main entrance. Look for mile marker 70.5.
- Want a bird’s eye view of Kˉılauea? A helicopter tour allows travellers to ogle the famed nine-mile, fixed-channel lava flow that snakes from an upland vent into the sea.