Pearl Harbor visitor count soars despite cutbacks

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One of Hawaii’s most popular visitor attractions is breaking records this summer.

Pearl Harbor is handling a large increase in visitors while dealing with federal cutbacks.

Beginning on Monday, the USS Arizona Memorial will go back to its full tour schedule. But those visiting should still plan in advance.

“We had to get our tickets a couple of months in advance using our travel agent,” visitor Ryan Anderson said.

“But when we got up to the ticket stand, they said they had given out all the tickets for the next two days,” visitor Margaret Davis said.

“We’re going standby,” visitor Ashley Sheffield said.

This time of the year is always a busy period for Pearl Harbor, but this summer, is off to a record-breaking start.

In May 2012, 100,000 people visited the attraction. Last month, Pearl Harbor welcomed 150,000 visitors, marking a 50 percent increase.

And, they’ve had to handle more, using less.

“Because of the federal budget cuts, we had to cut our programs,” a park ranger told visitors.

Because of sequestration, fewer tours are being offered.

“Feel a little crowded. Feel a little rushed. I understand that they have the same number of people who they’re trying to cram in a smaller time now,” Anderson said.

It also means, tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial are selling out daily, by 7:45 in the morning.

“We’ve never had a problem, we’ve just walked in and got our tickets,” Davis said.

Park rangers have been trying to spread the word.

“Since we open at 7, people start lining up at 5 or 6:00,” the ranger said.

But on July 1, a bit of relief. The National Park Service will be able to hire six more people, which is good news, since the USS Arizona Memorial will return to a full tour schedule.

Now, under federal cuts, there are only 21 tours. But on Monday, 29 tours will be offered, which will accommodate more people. But officials here say, tickets will still be hard to come by. They expect a sellout every day.

“It’s a good piece of history,” Sheffield said.

“Paying your respects to those that lost their lives,” visitor Stephen Amato-Heape said.

“It was nice. Really well done. Everybody should come and see it,” Anderson said.

Tickets are offered online but word is, they’re sold out online through November. Your best bet is to arrive at the visitor center early before it opens at 7 a.m. If you go later in the morning, it could be sold out and you will have to be on standby.

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