Experts: Hawaii tourism likely to take a hit amid coronavirus fears

Published: Feb. 21, 2020 at 4:31 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Airlines that serve the Asia-Pacific region are bracing for a possible 13% drop in passenger traffic, according to the International Air Transport Association

The decline is likely to hurt Hawaii’s no. 1 industry: Tourism.

Already some visitors are changing vacation plans.

Leilani Munter, a retired race car driver who lives in North Carolina, is canceling her March trip to Hawaii.

Leilani Munter
Leilani Munter(Scott R LePage | Leilani Munter)

Munter has roots on the Big Island, but is looking to reschedule her Hawaii vacation as fear of the coronavirus outbreak spread.

“You want to err on the side of caution," Munter told Hawaii News Now, adding that part of the reason she is not following through on her plans is the state’s response after a couple from Japan tested positive for the virus following their vacation.

The couple spent time first on Maui then on Oahu, but the state only released the name of the Oahu hotel. It took days before they confirmed details of the couple’s movements on Maui.

The state’s reasoning: The couple didn’t show symptoms while on Maui. But health experts now say the virus can spread from those who are asymptomatic.

“Being honest and maybe being extra cautious is always the better idea,” said Munter.

She has a college degree in biology with a focus on immunology so she studied infectious diseases. She feels the state needs to change their approach and provide details as soon as possible, not to cause a panic, but to make residents and visitors aware when they need to take precautions.

“The government should be as open as possible so we can prevent the spreading because if you withhold information that’s how it starts to spread," she said.

retired race car driver Leilani Munter, who has Hawaii roots, is postponing her March trip...
retired race car driver Leilani Munter, who has Hawaii roots, is postponing her March trip amid coronavirus fears(Leilani Munter)

Hawaii’s tourism industry has hit record highs in consecutive years, but the outbreak could take a toll.

The state has repeatedly said there are no known cases of the virus in Hawaii and says they are prepared if that changes.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz says the fear of coronavirus is real but says new practices are now in place and there is a greater awareness.

“Although this is a very scary virus and it’s a very serious matter and we have to mobilize all the resources available to make sure that it doesn’t become a global pandemic, right now the epidemiology of it is that we are safe,” Schatz said.

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