Japanese arrivals fall - tsunami costs mount

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii faces economic effects from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami which could put the brakes on the already-slow island economic recovery.

While mainland visitor traffic is substantially higher than last year, Japanese arrivals are down 14% since the crisis began Friday. Arrivals on flights from Japan has been running from 3,500 to 4,000 most days. Fewer than 500 arrived Friday when many flights were cancelled. Arrivals from Japan have been little more than 3,000 since then.

Waikiki hotels report substantial cancellations as Japanese families decide to postpone vacations in a time of crisis. Hotel managers say they feel there is nothing to be done but to extend condolences to Japanese guests and help them where possible.

Hawaiian Airlines is flying disaster relief volunteers from the U.S. mainland to Tokyo free of charge; there will be several flights for this purpose. Delta Air Lines announced a $1 million gift of cash and "in kind" contributions to Japanese disaster relief.

Central Pacific Bank set up collection points for Japanese relief in all its branches, and is now waiving fees for money transfers to Japan by its checking account customers.

Hawaiian Telcom, Verizon Wireless, AT&T Wireless and Mobi PCS have all waived charges for calls and text messages to Japan.

Aqua Hotels slashed room rates below $100 a night for Waikiki guests who need to delay their return to Japan.

Hawaii, meanwhile, continues to tote up the tsunami damage on its own shores.

The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai says it hopes to reopen next week after cleaning up wave damage, while the Kona Village Resort is closed until further notice for the same reason.

The King Kamehameha Marriott, at the north end of the Kailua-Kona seawall, is open, but cleaning the lobby carpet after a first floor flood.

Damage runs into millions from boats smashed at Oahu's Keehi Small Boat Harbor, but there was also damage to boats on the southern coast of Maui and the Kona side of the Big Island. Homes were damaged - one was even swept into Napo'opo'o Bay - near Kealakekua.

There was damage to at least four homes on Molokai.

Hawaii auto dealers that sell Japanese cars say they get their vehicles from Japan, but have substantial inventory on hand, so the shutdown of several automotive assembly lines in the earthquake region will not have an immediate effect.

Crude oil has fallen from $105 to $98 per barrel since Friday, as traders anticipate a slower Japanese economy that consumes less oil, but there is a 60-day lag time between crude oil price fluctuations and similar changes at the pump.

Because retail gas prices are still processing the run-up of oil prices from January, no significant decline in local gas prices is expected for several weeks.

Copyright 2011 by HawaiiNewsNow. All rights reserved.