Hawaii tourism experts say Ebola scare has yet to impact isles

Hawaii tourism experts say Ebola scare has yet to impact isles

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow)

So far the fear of contracting Ebola has not infected Hawaii's tourism market. Economist Paul Brewbaker said daily passenger counts from incoming flights remain steady.

"Tourism is a channel through which these adverse global events have impacts on Hawaii that have to be managed. We haven't seen anything like that so far," he said.

Keith Vierra of KV & Associates Hospitality Consulting agrees.

"Right now with its location in Africa, there isn't any direct concern for Hawaii. But you've got to monitor it," he said.

HNL Travel's Wendy Goodenow said earlier this month Hawaii dodged a bullet.

"We have had a test case but it was clean," she said. "Were all counting our lucky stars that we can stay ahead of it."

In 2003 visitor arrivals from Japan and Asia fell by about 155,000 compared to 2002, largely because of the SARS outbreak that terrified some travelers who canceled Hawaii trips.

"Both SARS and the H1N1A viral pandemic in 2003 and 2009 had small and transient but significant adverse impacts on international tourism to Hawaii," Brewbaker said.

"People weren't afraid of coming to Hawaii. People were afraid of traveling to certain international airports, at that time, particularly Asia," Vierra said.

Restrictions on international air travel could eventually hurt Hawaii, but on the flip side there is a chance our tourism industry might see a bump from Ebola.

"If we don't have it and we're fortunate enough for people to realize that, perhaps rather than going East they'll come West," Goodenow said.

Everything could change if Hawaii gets an Ebola case or more than one.

"At that point, agencies including HTA on the tourism side would need to make sure there's a mass amount of communication that's out there so people who are coming feel safe and the right procedures are in place," Vierra said.

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