The Volcano and the Business Community

May 11, 2018

Credit Kuuwehi Hiraishi

As developments continue in the Kīlauea eruptions, many businesses are contributing to recovery efforts. And for some businesses, there is opportunity—but the situation is delicate. We get more on that from Pacific Business News Editor in Chief A. Kam Napier.

When the eruptions began in Leilani Estates, Big Island-based Paradise Helicopters did what it always does during a natural disaster. It called the Hawaii County Civil Defense agency and offered to help.

As we went to press, civil authorities had yet to call on those services, but the helicopter company still found a role to play. It has been shuttling media around the area and taking Leilani Estates residents aloft to assess property damage. It’s offering 35 percent discounts for such passengers and offering residents free stand-by seats from Hilo when available.

Not that this has always been easy. The Federal Aviation Administration put flight restrictions in place to keep non-emergency aircraft and drones out of the way. Visibility is sometimes poor and that also keeps aircraft out of the area.

The eruptions are a tragedy for homeowners, but a spectacle for the world. Helicopter tour companies have seen a surge of interest, as has Mokulele Airlines, which offers volcano tours aboard its single-engine turboprop plane. Still, while the eruptions are a draw for tourists, Ross Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau, says the businesses are mindful of the tension between what’s happening in Leilani Estates and the opportunity for increased business. Hawaiian and Alaska airlines, hotels and other tourism companies have all called to lend their support.