Flu discourages travel to Hawaii by Japanese


POSTED: Friday, May 22, 2009

Swine flu concerns have cost the state millions of dollars in Japanese visitor spending this month.

;[Preview]  Seven More Cases Of H1N1 In Hawaii

The state health department confirmed another seven cases of swine flu in Hawaii, bringing the total to 40 cases.

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State Tourism Liaison Marsha Weinert said officials are certain the drop in Japanese visitors is related to the H1N1 virus rather than the economy because of recent cancellations. Japanese passenger arrivals increased in April from the same month a year ago, and officials had expected that to continue into May.

But it didn't. Many travelers from Japan changed their mind.

“;Based on the number of cancellations ... all of it has been attributed to the H1N1 concerns,”; Weinert said. Cancellations have stretched into June, showing Japanese arrivals will continue to remain flat, she added.

Since May 10, daily Japanese passenger arrivals declined by 22 to 36 percent compared with a year ago.

Hawaii is not the only tourism destination feeling the pinch. Weinert said Japanese travel worldwide is down.

She said the state has written a letter to Japanese travel agents promoting Hawaii as a vacation destination when Japanese confidence in travel returns.

“;What we're seeing right now is the amount of bookings moving forward has slowed to just a trickle,”; she said. “;Thank goodness the domestic market is rebounding.”;

Travel deals have helped slow the plunge in domestic travel, which had its largest drop of the year in March at 17.9 percent compared with last year. Domestic arrivals fell off by only 1.7 percent this month compared with last year.

“;If anyone has ever dreamed of coming to Hawaii, this is the time to come,”; Weinert said. “;It's very cost-accessible for everyone.”;

In the meantime, state officials announced seven more confirmed H1N1 cases yesterday, bringing Hawaii's total to 40. Three of the seven are adults, including one associated with Mililani Middle School. One of the four children was a Waiau Elementary School student.

Chiyome Fukino, director of the Department of Health, said all the state's cases have been mild—only one required hospitalization and that was out of state.

“;Our primary goal at this time is to reduce the spread and severity of illness in our population,”; she said. “;If you have a temperature of 100 degrees or more and you are coughing or have a sore throat, you need to stay home from work (or school).”;

She said anyone with those conditions needs to stay home for seven days or until passing a 24-hour period without fever and without taking fever medication.

The first three swine flu cases in Hawaii were confirmed on May 5.