Failed terrorism plot should not affect tourism
Tourism officials reported no decline in travel after the arrest of terrorism plotters.
HAWAII'S travel industry has fully recovered from the economic plunge caused by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, with steady occupancy rates over the past year and record-high hotel revenues. The successful thwarting this week of a 9/11-level terrorist plot should prevent a similar economic slump, but the industry might need to coax potential visitors.
Following 9/11, air travel was halted for several days, and Hawaii visitor arrivals plummeted by double digits through January 2002. Concerns in the spring of 2003 that a war in Iraq would cause economic damage to tourism unless it was brief and decisive turned out to be unfounded. The war has turned frustratingly lengthy and bloody, but Americans continue to travel.
The foiled plot to blow up as many as 10 airliners traveling from London to the United States did not appear to result in even a brief downturn in the tourism industry. If the plot had been successful, it undoubtedly would have had vast and immediate economic consequences. Its failure appears not to have caused even a slight dip.
"I think it takes a lot for Americans to change their travel plans," Frank Haas, vice president of tourism marketing for the Hawaii Tourism Authority, told the Star- Bulletin's Stewart Yerton.
Any slippage in tourism probably will be caused not by fear, but by having to report at the airport for flights an hour earlier and by annoyance with new restrictions against passengers carrying liquids, lotions or gels aboard planes. That should not greatly bother people who have become used to standing in long lines through metal detectors, subjecting themselves to pat-downs and taking off their shoes. Airlines should increase their efforts to quell passengers' fears once they are aboard.
Britain has imposed much greater restrictions, banning all carry-on luggage and electronic devices, including laptop computers, Blackberrys, iPods and cellular phones. While some passengers would welcome a ban on cell phones, such a broad ban could significantly discourage business travel.
However, even in Florida, which receives robust visitation from the United Kingdom, cruise lines, hotels and tour operators in Britain reported few cancellations, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "No one we're aware of has canceled travel," Annette Hugues of the British consulate in Miami told the newspaper. "And there's no concern this can affect commerce at this time."
Those suffering most from the new rules might be duty-free shops at airports. More than half of their sales come from alcohol, cosmetics and perfume, which passengers can no longer carry aboard planes. They should work out a method for passengers to turn in their unopened purchases as check-in luggage at the door before getting aboard.