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Hawaii braces for drop in tourists after Japan quake


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The tourism authority said visitor spending surged by 18.7% to $1.03 billion in February. The agency said this was especially significant because the total exceeded the amount travelers spent in Hawaii during February 2007, the year visitor spending in the islands hit an all-time high.

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When I went to Hawaii, 80% of the tourists were Japanese. This is going to be a huge hit on Hawaii's economy. What do they have besides hotels and pineapples?

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Now that more direct flights are departing from Haneda late at night I think Hawaii tourism from Japan ought to make out all right.

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Japan is a much-sought after and important market for the islands of Hawaii because Japanese visitors spend more on the average in the islands than travelers from the U.S. mainland and other countries making them valued customers for the island's tourism industry but it doesn't help when fewer flights from Japan, fuel surcharges on those flights, and a rise in Hawaii hotel room rates are encouraging them to go elsewhere. There is no doubt that at least in the short term, there will be the impact felt by the earthquake and tsunami. It may be anywhere from $15 to $20 million in revenues for the islands lost just from that tourist market. By any measure, Japanese citizens are a critical part of the tourist industry, which is a critical part of the island's economy. This is just the first shock wave, a cultural sense of obligation and responsibility that holds Japanese for international travel during domestic crisis. Hence it might be too early to tell if Hawaii tourism prospect for this year will be a case of too little to late or saved by the bell. But one thing is clear. It's high time to consider diversifying beyond traditional markets such as the U.S. West Coast and Japan - a shortcoming that is now coming to roost as the island will have to scramble to make up for the expected drop in arrivals from Japan. Fortunately, thus far the drop is tourism from Japan has been 18% for arrivals than the initial projection of 23% estimate. Therefore the damage to the economy and government may not be as severe.

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