HTA: #BoycottHawaii impact unclear, but travel ban suit 'right to do'

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There's no shortage of visitors on the streets of Waikiki.

In January, tourism-related spending gave the state's economy a $1.6 billion dollar boost, up more than 10 percent from last year.

Could a call to boycott Hawaii trending on social media put Hawaii's tourism growth in jeopardy? Officials say it's too soon to tell.

On Wednesday, a Hawaii judge blocked President Trump's revised travel ban from taking effect, making the islands a target of a social media firestorm. Just hours after the ruling, Trump supporters took to Twitter, calling for users on the social media network to #BoycottHawaii.

Some even questioned what Hawaii would know about being attacked, appearing to forget that the bombing of Pearl Harbor was, until the World Trade Center was brought down, the deadliest foreign attack on American soil in U.S. history.

George Szigeti, chief executive of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said he stands by the state attorney general's decision to challenge the president's revised travel ban.

"We stand by him shoulder to shoulder," he said.  "It's the right thing to do for Hawaii."

Szigeti added that it's too early to tell if the boycott will have an effect on the state's economy.

"I have not heard of anyone pulling out. In fact, I've heard more people wanting to come here," said Szigeti.

Tourists from the mainland make up roughly 60 percent of Hawaii's visitors. Less than 1 percent come from the six countries that would have been impacted by the revised travel ban.

In Waikiki on Thursday, Hawaii News Now found at least one visitor who liked the idea of a boycott.

"I think protecting this country is paramount, and for that reason I'd be supportive," said visitor Ted Szymanowski.

The majority of people HNN spoke with, however, thought the idea was absurd.

"Your local attorney general, he did the right thing.," said visitor Joe Kelleher. "You should have visitors come here. It's a beautiful place."

Some disagreed with both the social media movement and the Hawaii ruling.

"I don't like the idea of boycotting, but I also don't like the idea of the judge doing what he did to the travel ban," said visitor David Bowe.

Online, the #BoycottHawaii hashtag not only attracted tweets from Trump's supporters. It also generated hundreds of tweets from those who welcomed the ruling — and didn't mind the prospect of fewer visitors to the islands.

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