Hawaii volcano eruption is scaring away tourists but local businessman says it shouldn’t

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The eruption of the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island will certainly hurt the island’s economy – but it doesn’t necessarily have to, one local business owner told CNBC on Wednesday.

The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a popular tourist destination, has been shut down since the volcano began spewing lava and toxic gases earlier this month.

Gary Marrow, co-owner of Kapohokine Adventures, said the volcano has been erupting since 1983 and that’s why many tourists come to the island — “to view this spectacular event.”

What’s happening is that the lava flow has moved to a different area, which is affecting a small community, he said.

He said 95 percent of the island is “completely safe and open for business.”

“You do not need to alter, change or cancel your reservations for any reason. Nothing has really changed,” he said in a “Closing Bell” interview.

However, that’s what many are doing.

In fact, Marrow disputes Hawaii Gov. David Ige’s claim that visitor arrivals “are still strong” for the rest of the island.

“We’ve had a huge amount of cancellations from guests coming on the island,” Marrow said, noting that his business is down about 30 percent.

Fortunately for Marrow, the adventure company does other tours on the island besides just the volcano. Others are not so lucky. For instance, EchoGuides saw its business ground to a halt when the conditions made it too dangerous to visit lava areas.

“We have a family to support so we hope that the national park will reopen again soon, otherwise this could have a serious impact on our life,” owner Erik Storm recently told Reuters.

Meanwhile, summer bookings for hotels on the Big Island have fallen almost 50 percent since the eruptions started on May 3, according to tourism authorities.

The closure of the park, the state’s top tourist destination, alone is costing the island $166 million, the National Park Service said Monday.

The lost revenue rises to $222 million when some 2,000 jobs indirectly impacted by park tourists are included, according to a park service report.

There were also new warnings being issued this week from geologists. Lava is exploding as it enters the ocean and shooting rock fragments that are dangerous to boaters. Inland, there are methane explosions from molten rock and toxic gas is reaching some of the highest levels seen in recent times.

There are also frequent ash emissions, resulting in giant ash clouds, according to the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency.

— Reuters contributed to this report.