Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hawaiian economy hurting as Japanese tourists stay home

With the devastating Tohoku earthquake and the ensuing tsunami, even those Japanese from other parts of the country are opting to stay home. And as much as people feel terrible about that tragedy, officials in Hawaii — as well as the general population that works in tourism — are fretting about the blow to the local economy here.

This has highlighted a need to attract tourists from elsewhere, including South Korea (from which flights have recently been expanded).

From the Honolulu Star Advertiser:
Hawaii's tourism industry took hits by the Kobe earthquake in 1995, the swine flu epidemic in 2009 and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., but this month's disaster could surpass them after a blow that occurred during what continues to be recovery from a worldwide recession. Japanese visitors to Hawaii numbered 1.2 million last year, down by 1 million from 1996.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority expects April will be the peak of the shortfall. It plans to launch a marketing campaign in Japan after helping in the disaster recovery effort.

David Uchiyama, HTA vice president of brand management, told the Star-Advertiser's Allison Schaefers that it will concentrate on new business from North America, Oceania, Korea and China to offset the shortfall in Japan market.

A special marketing program will be aimed at secondary cities such as Portland, Ore., Dallas, San Diego, Sacramento and Phoenix, according to John Monahan, president and chief executive officer of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.

Much of the emphasis in marketing has been on Japan, the third-largest tourism source outside the western and eastern U.S., and for good reason. Beyond the sheer numbers of visitors, Japanese tourists spend an average of $274 a day on food, hotels and shopping, while visitors from western mainland states average $146.
Similarly, Japan is hurting from an expected downturn in tourists to their country (which is something South Korea is perhaps setting itself up to take advantage of by easing visa rules to the ROK).

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