A volcanic eruption in Hawaii has attracted a surprising number of tourists to the island.
This time of year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the popular vacation spot is usually quiet.
But Mauna Loa, the world’s largest volcano, began erupting on Sunday and now nearby hotels and tour operators are sold out.
The Castle Hilo Hawaiian Hotel is fully booked until after Christmas.
“It’s booming at the moment,” said Marian Somalinog, who works at the front desk.
Brett Steen flew from Oahu to Hawaii with his visiting parents from Florida on a trip booked months ago.
The volcanic eruption began shortly before they arrived on the Big Island.
He said: “This is a bonus part of our trip. We’re super excited to get out of here.’
Thousands of cars have caused traffic jams on Route 200, known as the Saddle Road, which connects the cities of Hilo on the east side of the island of Hawaii and Kailua-Kona on the west side.
Steve Solberg, general manager of Outrigger Kona Resort & Spa in Kailua-Kona, said many guests drove up Saddle Road to see the eruption.
Some people canceled their reservations because of the volcano, but these were quickly snapped up by others wanting to see the eruption.
“We expect it to be very positive in the next week or so,” he said.
Hot lava flows from the volcano, which has been dormant for 38 years, but it’s still several miles away and poses no threat to communities.
But the lava is creeping towards Saddle Road – where several people have gathered to take photos of the spectacle.
Gov. David Ige has issued an emergency proclamation to allow emergency responders to arrive quickly or limit access as needed.
He also assured everyone that the Hawaii National Guard can help plan alternatives and try to set up bypass routes if lava crosses the highway.
Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984. The current eruption is the 34th since written records began in 1843.
Its smaller neighbor Kilauea has been erupting since September 2021.
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https://metro.co.uk/2022/12/02/volcano-eruption-in-hawaii-brings-surprise-tourism-boom-during-slow-season-17870249/ Hawaii's volcanic eruption brings a surprise tourism boom during the off-season