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Hawaii tour companies struggling due to Mauna Kea protest

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii — Hawaii tour companies are beginning to experience negative effects from the protest that has blocked access to the state's highest volcano, a report said.

Some tour companies near Mauna Kea are restructuring and selling off equipment as the closure of its access road continues, West Hawaii Today reported Tuesday.

Protesters who oppose the Thirty Meter Telescope planned on Mauna Kea have blocked the road to the mountain's summit since July. Some Native Hawaiians oppose building the $1.4 billion observatory because they believe the summit is sacred.

Eight companies licensed to ferry guests to the summit for sunset, stargazing and educational excursions said they have cut employees and reduced trips.

Companies specializing in summit excursions are being hit harder than others. Mauna Kea Summit Adventures posted an online notice Friday announcing a sale of surplus equipment including computerized telescopes, optics, astrophotography gear, and tripods.

Tour guides are finding other places to take guests that offer alternative venues for sunsets and stars, while some have added other attractions such as farm tours.

Hawaii Forest & Trail has eliminated a few positions and is in the process of restructuring. The company conducts other activities beyond Mauna Kea including hiking, bird-watching and zip-line rides, said Jason Cohn, vice-president of sales and marketing.

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com

The Associated Press