A three million dollar campaign will encourage travel from China, Korea, Oceana and North America because Japanese visitors are staying home. Japan is a major contributor to Hawaii’s visitor industry and estimates are that travel from there to Hawaii will be down twenty percent in 2011.
Those of us in the islands understand that travel is shelved in the face of tragedy. Hawaii and Japan have many official and family ties. A popular T-shirt being used to raise funds for Japan says simply “Aloha” with the “o” replaced by a red ball, recalling Japan’s flag. The “Aloha for Japan” website says it is “a statewide campaign by the people of Hawaii to help the victims of the Japan tragedy in their time of need. The campaign is being organized and supported by a host of island businesses, community groups, public officials and inpiduals.” Many local fundraisers are also incorporating appeals for Japan with regular annual events.
When visits from Japan resume, it will be a welcome sign that the nation has healed from the triple earthquake – tsunami – nuclear trauma. While Japan’s focus must be on recovery, the drop in Hawaii travel comes just as Hawaii’s visitor industry was regaining strength. Not only are visits from Japan down, some travelers from other areas are worried about the tsunami and radiation dangers in Hawaii. Government, business and educational leaders have reassured local residents and visitors that Hawaii is in no danger of harmful radiation from Japan.
To mitigate the loss of travel, the Hawaii Tourism Authority today voted to spend three million dollars to “stabilize tourism” in Hawaii. The predicted drop in visits from Japan is about four percent of overall tourism spending in Hawaii. The HTA hopes that the marketing campaign will keep visitor spending at the 12 billion dollars expected before the recent disasters.