Hawaii travel still suffering

While it may indeed be safe traveling to Hawaii, not as many people are, at least from Japan. Last month’s earthquake in Japan turned tsunami that damaged or destroyed shops and attractions in Hawaii has taken it’s toll on tourism.

Before the disaster hit, tourism numbers were up with February spending clocked at $1.013 billion, an increase of 18.7 percent over the previous year. Airline seats sold to Hawaii from Japan were on the rise too, up 2.4 percent.

Now, the number of Japanese visitors to the Aloha State has fallen 25 percent since the March 11 quake, compared with a year ago, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority reports the Wall Street Journal. Hotels are reporting cancellations of future bookings as high as 45 percent too.
The tsunami that struck the Big Island of Hawaii spared lives and no serious injuries or deaths were reported but caused an estimated $30 million in damages. Big players in the Hawaii hotel business the Four Seasons and Kona Village Resort both closed. The Four Seasons is scheduled to open at the end of the month. Kona Village still has not set a reopening date.

The Japanese, a critical ingredient in Hawaii’s tourism success story, typically do not go far from home during a crisis and the crisis in Japan is far from over. Hawaii tourism officials are hesitant to predict when it will be business-as-usual again.

“This is more than dollars and cents, it’s a relationship we have with them,” Mike McCartney, CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority told the Wall Street Journal. To help tourism, the Hawaii Tourism Authority has authorized $3 million in emergency funds for pitching Hawaii to markets other than Japan.

That might be working too. Today, the Hawaii Tourism Authority revised it’s projections to reflect an 18 percent decline in arrivals from Japan for the month of March, less than the authority’s initial 25 percent estimate.

But while tourism may be down, low air price to Hawaii have fueled higher prices at hotels.

HawaiiFreePress.com tracks price increases and reports a 25 percent hike in hotel prices. “Everyone’s favorite island getaway, Hawaii, jumps one spot to the top of the list this month. Leisure travelers are taking advantage of recent airfare sales to Honolulu, driving hotel demand and increasing rates.” but concludes “The good news is that lying on the beach and swimming in the warm Pacific Ocean are still free!”

Flickr photo by Madmarv00

Hawaii’s Tourism Chief Steps Down Because of Racist, Pornographic Emails

The board members of Hawaii‘s State Tourism Authority accepted the resignation of Rex Johnson, the head of the agency, after a months-long investigation into emails sent and received from his office computer. Johnson was first reprimanded in August after an audit by the state uncovered pornographic emails on the computer. At that time, Johnson was reprimanded by the board. His salary was cut and his apology accepted.

However, further investigation revealed that the emails had been forwarded by Johnson to other email accounts. Some of the emails included remarks deemed racist and sexist by investigators. Rather than face further scandal, Johnson agreed to step down yesterday. The board was only too happy to accept the resignation. I guess poor Rex never learned the meaning of the acronym NSFW. But with tourism accounting for a large part of the Hawaii’s economy, the negative press from such a scandal could end up affecting the state’s image and tourism revenue.

Hawaii’s most popular state parks

If you’re heading to Hawai’i and want to find out the state parks travelers find the most appealing, check out Hawai’i Tourism Authority”s “2007 Hawai’i State Park Survey.” According to the findings, 10.1 million people visited Hawai’i State Parks in 2007, 2/3 of them out of state visitors. The survey helped produce a 98 page PDF file report with loads of information useful to the state park folks, as well as tourists who want to head where people are not–or to where people are.

The survey asked visitors to rate sites as well as mark items they think state parks should have. Top on the list is parking, followed by interpretive signage and then restrooms. Most people head to parks looking for a view, although residents have an added motivation of a family outing and spending time with friends.

One page of the file reports on visitor ratings of the islands according to scenery, cultural spots, hiking experience and flora and fauna. Since 2003, satisfaction with the parks has generally gone up, and across the board, O’ahu, Hawai’i Island, Maui, and Kaua’i are closely rated in their appeal. What this says to me, is that no matter where you head, you’ll feel satisfied–provided you find parking. For the list of the top 10, keep reading. For another Hawai’i natural treasure, check out Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. It might be a World Heritage site one day.

Top 10 State Parks

1. Nu’uanu Pali State Wayside, (O’ahu) the highest volume park with over 900,000 people visiting annually.
2. Wailua River State Park (Kaua’i)
3. Hā’ena State Park (Kaua’i)
4. Diamond Head State Monument (O’ahu)
5. Mākena State Park (Maui)
6. Hāpuna Beach State Recreation Area (Hawai’i Island)
7. ‘ Īao Valley State Monument (Maui)
8. Waimea Canyon State Park (Kaua’i)
9. Nā Pali Coast State Park (Kaua’i)
10. Ka’ena Point State Park (O’ahu)