Visitor spending loss near billion dollar mark

Frank Hass
Frank Hass
Mike McCartney
Mike McCartney
Jennifer Clark
Jennifer Clark

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

WAIKIKI (KHNL) - The recession has dealt another financial blow to Hawaii's tourism industry.

The state says a loss in visitor spending is nearing the billion dollar mark.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) says visitor spending across Hawaii is down $882 million, compared to the same time last year.

Tourism leaders say concerns about the swine flu has left many Japanese visitors thinking twice about coming to Hawaii.

And businesses say the tourist traffic in Waikiki is noticeably slower.

It's a financial loss in the Japanese market that Hawaii's tourism industry hasn't seen in six years.

A new report shows Japanese air arrivals nosedived nearly 33% compared to the same time last year, due to swine flu.

"We certainly see that market has been affected by things like that in the past like SARS. As soon as the headlines get over and people are confident again they start traveling again," said Frank Haas of UH School of Travel Industry Management Industry.

"We have 23 new flights coming in August and eight new flights in Silver Week in September so I think we're looking up for the next half of the year for Japan visitors," said Mike McCartney, HTA President & CEO.

Waikiki businesses say it has been slow, even with summer in full swing.

"I was expecting based on last year that there would be a lot more floods of people. Kalakaua kind of reminds me of the Las Vegas strip when it's full and we haven't really seen that this year," said Jennifer Clark, an activity marketing agent in Waikiki.

Visitors are also keeping a tight fist on their spending money.

"Hotels have had to significantly reduce their prices so it's a major stress point for hotels right now. Restaurants retailers have all dropped prices also so visitors are spending less," said McCartney.

There is hope. For the second month in a row, HTA says there's a bump in the number of visitors from Hawaii's number one market, the United States West.

The challenge is figuring out how to keep the Hawaiian travel bug going.

This month, HTA launched an aggressive marketing campaign, using 86% of its budget to attract tourists to the islands.