As we work diligently to help the people of Puna and parts of Ka'u recover and rebuild their lives, we also need to be mindful of the ever-increasing count of cancelled trips to Hawaii Island and the rest of the state caused by the Kilauea eruption.
In the wake of past crises, like hurricanes and economic downturns, we promptly launched proactive advertising campaigns in our major travel markets.
Government and state tourism officials followed up by leading trade delegations with the private sector to let travelers know they were still welcomed here.
I know because I led or was a member of some of those missions.
We can't hope the news, social media, word of mouth, or a recently introduced but very modest advertising effort will suffice to convince the traveling public to come.
Then, as now, we've got to act swiftly. We urgently need government and the Hawaii Tourism Authority to lead creatively and launch a well-funded, marketing campaign to reassure prospective visitors that Hawaii is still a safe place, that we're doing well, and that we want them to continue visiting our islands. The state has more than enough hotel room tax money to underwrite this effort, and what better use of tourism dollars than to support our top income-generator.
Let's act now before a temporary problem morphs into severe, long-term economic damage to Hawaii's number-one industry.