Coronavirus travel warnings, cancellations begin to take toll on Hawaii tour companies

Published: Feb. 6, 2020 at 10:09 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With no end in sight to the coronavirus outbreak, the travel warnings and flight cancellations are starting to take a toll on some Hawaii companies.

Tours to China account for 15 to 20% of the business at Air & Sea Travel Center.

The company offers more than 10 different itineraries for China throughout the year, including three that stop in Wuhan.

But with the CDC travel warning, the business decided to cancel tours through June and refund passengers.

[Related coverage: Unknowns of new virus make global quarantines a struggle]

“We will see if the situation is still the CDC warning is still on, and the situation is not getting really to a safe point, we are probably going to cancel the trips for 2020, all year,” said President Henry Ou.

The company survived the economic fallout from the SARS outbreak more than 15 years ago, when trips to China accounted for nearly 50% of its business.

Since then, the travel agency has diversified its destinations, but its president is worried that the new coronavirus will continue spreading to other countries.

"What we're losing is the time we spent to prepare the tour, to plan the tour, and the staff cost, and mainly the advertising cost," said Ou.

Economist Paul Brewbaker said it’s too early to determine the impact to Hawaii’s visitor industry.

"We're already seeing flights being canceled from Asia and a reluctance to travel," he said.

“That’s usually the way these things affect us, is that people change their travel patterns, people change their economic behavior.”

Brewbaker pointed out that the state has recovered from other tourism shocks in the past.

“It varies from market to market, so in the Japanese and Chinese markets, the losses were about the same, 9/11 and SARS, and the recovery period ... (was) roughly six months,” said Brewbaker.

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