Hawaiian Tourism Rocked by Japan Disaster

palm trees at dusk - Hawaiian tourismAftershocks of the disaster in Japan rippled through the Hawaiian tourism industry last week as thousands of Japanese tourists canceled travel plans in the wake of their country's overwhelming devastation.

According to a report from USA Today, Hawaii expected to host an estimated 7.1 million tourists this year, representing roughly 18% of the state's overall tourism and approximately $2 billion dollars in projected revenue."The economic consequences will be severe for us," Hawaiian Governor Neil Abercrombie told USA Today. "It's going to be terrible. It's something we have to come to grips with."

Honolulu, HA-based publication Star-Advertiser reported Japanese tourists who did follow through on travel plans following the disaster are doing so with mixed emotions.

"We have conflicted feeling about traveling at this time, but it's our honeymoon," the paper quoted Chiaki Matsumoto as saying. "People in Japan are canceling wedding ceremonies because they feel they shouldn't be having fun while others are suffering."

Hidemi Kokaji echoed Matsumoto's sentiment and told the paper, "I felt kind of bad coming on this trip...but my husband is retired and we have been planning this trip for a while, so we decided to come."

Yoshio Kuriyama of Osaka, Japan told the Star-Advertiser he doesn't believe other Japanese will be traveling. His wife, Michiko Kuriyama, added, "Especially [from the] the east side of Tokyo and Japan, everything is become scarce...they even have to limit use of electricity. We think people there would feel it's not the time to travel. They are probably more concerned about everyday needs than thinking about travel."

"Our hearts and prayers are with the people of Japan," said Momi Akimseu, communications and brand manager for the Hawaii Tourism Authority in an interview with WalletPop. "Hawaii shares a strong affinity with the people of Japan -- a really deep, personal connection."

Even Akimseu admitted, however, the HTA does not know to what extent the crisis will affect the price of a Hawaiian vacation. "So many factors go into the cost of travel," said Akimseu, "including supply, demand and fuel prices. At this time, we simply don't know what the cost of travel will be as a result of the tragedy in Japan."

"With regard to cancellations," added Akimseu, "we are working on programs to re-stimulate impacted markets as well as supplemental programs to compensate for loss of revenue from markets that are down." Akimseu said she expects the new marketing programs will include increased cooperation with partner Hawaiian Tourism Japan.

"This is just the first shock wave," said David Uchiyama of the Hawaiian Tourism Authority, noting that a "cultural sense of obligation and responsibility" has traditionally prevented the Japanese from traveling during times of crisis.

With Golden Week (April 29 -- May 3), marked by four national Japanese holidays, fast approaching, the Hawaiian leisure industry is being forced to adjust expectations and revenue projections.

Tourists looking for a tropical Hawaiian getaway in the months to come will have to wait and see in which direction Hawaiian price tags may be adjusted as well.

Update: WalletPop reported that Hawaii was expecting 7.1 million Japanese tourists this year. Hawaii expects 7.1 million tourists, of many nationalities, this year. The correction was made Wednesday, March 23, 2011. WalletPop regrets the error.

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