Tourism industry braces for downturn as coronavirus spreads

Updated: Feb. 24, 2020 at 11:26 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tourism executives across Hawaii are watching for economic sniffles from the coronavirus, but so far the state is inoculated against its worst effects.

“Like almost every hotel that caters to a global clientele we have experienced some cancellations, which is to be expected, but not of a significant level,” said Peter Shaindlin, chief operating officer of Halekulani Corporation.

A new report from the UH Economic Research Organization, “Coronavirus Presents Danger to Hawaii Tourism,” sounds more alarms, referring to “a considerable — if as yet uncertain — risk to Hawaii’s economy in the year to come.”

International visitor traffic, a fraction of Hawaii’s total tourism in the best of times, has already been in decline for non-viral reasons, like unfavorable currency exchange rates.

[Read more: Experts: Hawaii tourism likely to take a hit amid coronavirus fears]

Japanese visitor traffic so far this Friday is down roughly 1% from the same time last year, while arrivals from other countries are down 20%.

The hit is from places like South Korea and Australia and so far has nothing to do with illness.

[Read more: Coronavirus travel warnings, cancellations begin to take toll on Hawaii tour companies]

China has never been more than an asterisk of Hawaii international visitor traffic. And that traffic shrank throughout 2019. It was about 11,000 visitors a month a year ago but had shrunk to 5,000 a month by late fall. Hawaii gets more than 5,000 visitors a day from Japan.

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