Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Honeymooning with a heavy heart

Takaaki Matsumoto and his wife Chiaki feel very, very bad.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser is reporting on Japanese tourists who are still coming to Hawaii despite everything that's happened back home in Japan:
Tourists from Japan are still flying in to Hawaii, but some interviewed yesterday brought pangs of guilt with them.

"I feel apologetic," said 31-year-old Osaka resident Yasuo Mitsuhiro, through an interpreter. "But I planned this trip over six months ago, so I decided to come anyway. Right now people are suffering in Japan, and I feel bad coming on a trip like this."

On March 11, Hawaii was hit by seismic sea waves from Japan's devastating magnitude-9.0 earthquake. And now the state anticipates a drops in visitor arrivals just as the industry was starting to show signs of improvement after the recession.

About 1.2 million Japanese travelers accounted for about 17.3 percent of statewide visitor arrivals in 2010. They spend up on average about $270 a day.

However, several traveling agencies and hotels have reported cancellations and decreases in reservations.

The impact of any significant drop in arrivals would be broad. Toru Hama yasu, who heads the Rapid Transit Division, overseeing the city's $5.5 billion rail transit project, said last week that the city is concerned about a drop in general excise tax collections.

He said Japanese travelers can account for up to 5 percent or 6 percent of the general excise tax and that the rail proj ect depends on a surcharge of the tax for funding.

All of the arriving Japanese tourists interviewed yesterday said they had planned their trips months ago. None of them came from areas heavily affected by the quake or tsunami.
One might find that last bit, about how the Tohoku earthquake and ensuing tsunami will adversely affect Hawaii's coffers, a tad distasteful, but we've seen plenty of news stories talking about the adverse effects of Japan's two-pronged tragedy in economic or commercial areas not in Japan (e.g., that iPad shipments may be held up due to a lack of parts from Japan).

I guess that's just it: life goes on for many people, even if all this is there in the back of their mind. I can imagine, though, that they felt a little awkward having a reporter in Oahu ask them point blank if they feel guilty about taking a pleasure trip at a time like this.

I wonder how I would react if I were one of those honeymooners who was about to get married and take off to start my marriage when the quake and tsunami hit. I have a relative who got married on September 11, but one year earlier. I asked if they were considering changing the date on which they celebrated their anniversary. The answer was, no, they thought that day should still have some good associated with it.

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