Hawaii’s Big Island is getting a bad break due to perception, vs. the reality of conditions in the island’s main tourist area, the Kohala Coast, tourism officials say.
Kilauea’s latest eruption directly affects just a small portion of east Hawaii Island’s Puna district, an area of 10 square miles on the 4,028-square-mile island. Two-thirds of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is temporarily closed to the public due to instability at the summit. But the rest of the island is open for business.
You might not think so, with some of the media coverage—but according to Bryan Hansen, spokesperson for the Kohala Coast Resort Association (which represents 8 meeting and incentive resorts, including the The Fairmont Orchid, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and Hualalai), it’s an issue of perception. The Big Island is exactly that—big. “The Kohala Coast is on the northwest coast of the island, about 75 miles from the Kilauea Volcano lava flow on the southeastern end. it is fully open for business, safe and far removed from any threats tourists may perceive from recent media coverage,” says Hansen. “The distance from the lava flow to the Kohala Coast is approximately the same as a drive from NYC to Philly, or from LA to Santa Barbara.”
“We recently worked with a client who brought 450 guests in June to the Fairmont Orchid, and the program went flawlessly,” says Frank Robinson, DMCP, president & CEO of Island Events. “There has been no effect on the entire other side(s) of the island.” In fact, says Robinson, “Those wishing to see the flow from the air are able to do so much more dramatically as it is more active.”
The best thing for planners to do is their homework, and the Hawaii Tourism Authority has created an online resource with everything you need to know, from an eruption map, to “Vocanic Watch Updates,” to air quality reports. There are also daily video briefings on Na Leo TV.