Hawaii tourism bracing for Japanese ebb tide

Hawaii’s Governor Neil Abercrombie stated recently that the loss from the expected downfall in tourism from Japan will be tens of millions of dollars. Japanese tourists are the third largest group of arrivals to the Aloha state, just after the US West Coast and US East Coast, respectively. Hawaii and Japan have long had a tourism-friendly relationship, and for the longest time, the privately-run Hawaii Tourism Association (HiTA) has been urging the Hawaii Tourist Authority (HTA) to not only look at traditional markets, like Japan, when relying on inbound traffic to boost tourism revenues.

With the increasing risk of radioactive fallout and aftershocks from last week’s earthquake in Japan, many airlines are pulling out of Japan’s capital. Foreign embassies in Tokyo are moving, and countries from around the world are urging their citizens to leave Tokyo. US air carriers were advised by the Federal Aviation Administration to reroute flights if needed.

It may take years for Japan to get back to normal, and this includes outbound tourism. For Hawaii, business from Japan is essential, and without this market, the consequence for tourism and for Hawaii’s economy could be devastating.

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz, president of HiTA said: “The situation in Japan is tragic. HiTA is alarmed and saddened to learn of the suffering the Japanese people are going through. Economically, for Hawaii we urge HTA and the Governor to immediately shift marketing dollars to give an instant incentive for destinations in the European Union, Singapore, and India to look at Hawaii as a travel alternative. Under the current circumstances, many Europeans are hesitating to travel to Asia including Vietnam, China, Thailand, and Malaysia. Hawaii and the US in general, especially as a visa free zone, could be a welcomed alternative for Europeans, but action must be taken swiftly.”

Steinmetz went on to say that HTA should concentrate on communicating at a global level that Hawaii is not under any risk from radiation being emitted from Japan. The current news reports in Europe are supporting this by saying that Hawaii is not in danger of being affected by the radiation.