Visitors on Hawaii's Big Island aren't letting a little government shutdown dampen their vacations. One of the island's biggest attractions, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, is closed due to the government shutdown, but visitors are getting creative about their site-seeing. Instead of going in, they're going up.
Helicopter companies, it turns out, are still allowed to fly over the park while it’s closed, offering visitors unique and exhilarating views of the lava flows. Ross Birch, the Big Island Visitors Bureau executive director, told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, "We have seen helicopter companies receiving a large bulk of the business.”
About 4,500 people visit the park each day when it’s open. Now that visitors are being turned back at the gates, however, David Johnson, flight coordinator for Safari Aviation, estimated that his company has seen a 30 percent increase in business.
Rob Payesko, director of business development for Paradise Helicopters, also noticed an uptick, “We are definitely seeing a lift that would appear related to the closure of the national park."
While the boon is nice for now, Payesko called it a “mixed blessing.” As many local tourist businesses have already seen, the government shutdown is causing tourists to change their plans, perhaps even delaying or canceling their trips to the Big Island altogether, which will further hurt the local economy.