Economic Downturn Expected to Affect Summer Tourism

Justin Shim
Justin Shim
Angela Pedro
Angela Pedro

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Summer vacation won't be the same this year as record jet fuel prices and an economic downturn have people watching what they spend.

And for an island-state like Hawaii that is so dependent on air travel, rising ticket prices mean more people are staying put. That will most likely have lasting impact on our tourism industry.

It doesn't look good for the summer months and even beyond. Flights from the west coast will be cut by 15 percent. That means less money going in and out of our local economy.

The summer months typically bring in tons of vacationers to our shores, but this year looks to be very different. Record jet fuel costs, rising ticket prices, and fewer carriers serving Hawaii combine for a major setback for air travelers.

"We don't know about anymore trips for a while," said Justin Shim, an Alewa Heights resident. "We usually try once a year but it might be once every four years now. Just have to save money."

Major airlines are cutting back service to Hawaii, this year by 15 percent and next year by at least 25 percent. The culprit? A huge jump in jet fuel cost, twice as expensive from just a year ago.

"My mom was supposed to come and she couldn't so she's going to stay until September so we can save more money for her to come," said Angela Pedro, a Honolulu resident.

Last week, Hawaiian Airlines increased ticket prices to account for rising fuel costs.

"We're going to lose some visitors this year, but Hawaii's been through this time and time again as every market ebbs and flows," said Rex Johnson, a spokesperson for the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

The last time, Hawaii's economy faced a setback of this magnitude was the days following the September 11 attacks seven years ago.

"9/11 took some planes out of the sky for a few days," said Johnson. "This one is going to be longer."

Longer and even more widespread, affecting the U.S. and beyond. Continental is the latest airline to scale back, eliminating 3,000 jobs and scaling back on its flights.

As the international marketplace weathers these turbulent times, Hawaii's tourism industry remains hopeful.

"They've been through it, they know how to deal with it, and they'll deal with it again," said Johnson.

To offset the effects of the economic downturn, the Hawaii Tourism Authority is focusing more on foreign markets like China, Japan, Korea, and Australia. That's because foreign currencies are still strong against the American dollar.