Disaster's tourism impact isn't just Japan

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Market assumptions developed by the Hawaii Tourism Authority show an expectation that the Japanese crisis will adversely impact tourism from other countries and the U.S. mainland, not just Japan.

In announcing its plan to spend more than $3 million on fresh marketing in key U.S. mainland markets, the tourism authority Wednesday made public a matrix of projected visitor arrivals for the first six months of 2011, showing declines expected from Korea, China, and Oceania.

The biggest drop from original forecasts is understandably from Japan. Tourism marketers had been hoping for more than 600,000 visitors in the first six months of the year, generating spending of almost $970 million. Now they expect more like 470,000 visitors, and spending below $760 million. Both of these declines would work out to a decline of about 22%.

But Waikiki hoteliers have also reported cancellations by would-be visitors from other countries, and even from the U.S. mainland, where some residents apparently have the impression that radiation from Japan would reach Hawaii sooner than the mainland. (The Sendai area is actually on the same approximate latitude as Seattle, where the prevailing trade winds blow toward North America, while Honolulu is on the same approximate latitude as Hanoi, with prevailing trade winds blowing from east to west.)

The projected decline from U.S. West is less than 1%, but because of the large size of the visitor base from this region, it still works out to a projected earthquake impact of nearly 10,000 visitors lost over the six month period. Another 5,000 are expected to be lost from U.S. East points of origination. The authority expects to lose at least 1,000 visitors each from Korea, China, Australia and Canada.

Hawaii officials plan targeted marketing campaigns in three secondary markets on the U.S. mainland. Tourism Authority CEO Mike McCartney, on "Sunrise" Thursday morning, said he would not disclose the three locations because he didn't want rival destinations to know them.

McCartney said his deputy David Uchiyama was flying to Seoul to make the Hawaii pitch at a tourism conference, and the authority was working with airlines in Korea, Australia and other countries in hopes of generating more flights. Such airlines as Qantas, JetStar and Korean Air have scaled back Japan flights and could be looking to get business elsewhere.

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