Tourism Crisis Looming

David Uchiyama
David Uchiyama

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Hawaii tourism officials are looking for more airline seats on arriving flights in an effort to "salvage the summer". It's traditionally Hawaii's busiest travel season.

There are growing fears from tourism and government officials that if there aren't more affordable flights added to the islands there could be an economic disaster.

"With Aloha Airlines going down and ATA going bankrupt we have lost 850,000 seats till the end of the year," said Senator Donna Mercado Kim.

And with summer approaching it couldn't have happened at a worse time.

"In the last month, we lost 15% of airlift. This is a crisis starting to brew here. My concern is what are we doing to do how are we going to be proactive," said Kim.

Lawmakers want tourism officials to plan ahead. The state tourism authority has already hired an airline analyst to find more flights. "We are doing an airline aviation analysis of all the markets not only North America but internationally as well," said Hawaii Tourism Authority's David Uchiyama.

Right now families booking vacations are scared off by $1,000 fares offered by the airlines still serving Hawaii.

"Airlift is a key, we are looking the load factors and available seats in the market to make up for Aloha and ATA's loss," said Uchiyama.

Tourism officials may charter aircraft for certain routes. And lawmakers could tap into emergency tourism funds.

"I think it might be appropriate to use some of the money to offset some of the negativity coming down and partner with airlines wholesalers to come up with packages. "

The economic spin-off from this is more than just airlines. They have to get people here to fill hotel rooms, restaurant seats and attractions.

The tourism authority will launch a marketing campaign next week to combat negative publicity and entice U.S. and Canadian travelers to visit.