State must develop new tourism strategy
Rising oil prices and an economic downturn threaten to drastically reduce Hawaii tourism.
Hawaii's tourism plummeted in the months following 9/11 and has not been greatly affected by the war in Iraq, but the industry could take a prolonged hit from skyrocketing oil prices and the nation's sour economy. Tourism officials in Hawaii must develop innovative approaches to cope with what is a nationwide decline in travel.
Visitor arrivals dropped by double digits in the months following 9/11, but tourism's revival wasn't disturbed by the country going to war in Iraq. While the war has been bloody and lengthy, Americans have continued to travel.
The Travel Industry Association projects that summer travel will drop 1.5 percent nationally, the first decline in four years, but Hawaii tourism already has taken a larger dive. Visitor arrivals were down 6.4 percent in May from the same month last year, and visitor expenditures fell by 2.9 percent.
Hotel executives expect fall bookings will drop by 10 percent to 30 percent, and they plan to ask the Hawaii Tourism Authority to take emergency action. The state already has spent $3 million in emergency funds following the closures of Aloha and ATA airlines, and advertising dollars alone might not be enough to deal with the dive.
The good news is that travel to Hawaii from Canada is up, and a new agreement between the U.S. and China resulted in the arrival last month of the first group of Chinese leisure travelers to Hawaii.
The challenge will be to draw upscale mainlanders who might cancel Europe travel plans because of the dollar's weakness against the euro, and instead opt for Hawaii.
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