Haleakala park tourism up, but spending drops

Almost 1.1 million people visited Haleakala National Park in 2012, 14.3 percent more people than the previous year, according to a National Park Service report.

The report showed that 1,094,668 visitors to the Maui national park at the summit and Kipahulu districts in 2012 spent more than $64.5 million in communities near the park – which supported 736 jobs in the local area.

That spending, however, was lower than the $69 million that was spent in nearby communities in 2011.

“National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy – returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service – and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well,” said Haleakala Superintendent Natalie Gates in a news release. “We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”

Hawaii’s seven national parks drew 5.1 million visitors in in 2012. The report says that visitors spent $314.5 million in the areas around the attractions, which include active volcanoes, lush trails and historic sites. That helped support more than 3,700 jobs.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island was the most popular park in the state with 1.5 million visitors.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service, along with Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber of the U.S. Geological Survey.

According to the report, $14.7 billion was spent directly by 283 million national park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a park. This spending supported 243,000 jobs nationally with 201,000 jobs found in gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $26.8 billion.

Most visitor spending supported jobs in restaurants and grocery and convenience stores (39 percent); hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfasts (27 percent); and other amusement and recreational businesses (20 percent).

To download the report, go to www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/economics.cfm.

In another report released last month by the National Park Service, the 16-day federal government shutdown from Oct. 1 to 16 cost Haleakala National Park more than 69,000 visitors and the park and businesses $4.1 million in visitor spending. The park was closed during the shutdown.

The report noted that the average October visitor total for Haleakala is 89,054 but last October that number plummeted 78 percent to 19,875 people.

Average visitor spending for the month is $5.3 million but only $1.2 million was garnered in October 2013, the report said.

The Obama administration said that the government shutdown last fall resulted in nearly 8 million fewer visitors to national parks, costing the parks and surrounding communities an estimated $414 million in lost visitor spending.

To view this report, go to www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/economics.cfm and click on “2013 Government Shutdown Report.”

* The Associated Press contributed to this report.