Flu Fears Keep Japanese Tourists From Hawaii

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The Honolulu Advertiser is reporting that the number of Japanese visitors arriving in Hawaii plunged over the last two weeks amid H1N1 flu fears—even though Hawaii cases have remained few and mild—and cancellations over the next few months are likely to cost the state millions more in lost revenue.

State tourism liaison Marsha Wienert said that it was "very concerning" to see a double-digit decline in arrivals that began on May 10 with a whopping 25 percent drop in daily arrivals. Hawaii reported its first H1N1 flu case on May 5, and since then the number of cases has grown to 26.

The plunge in arrivals from Japan followed a good Golden Week, with the numbers of Japanese visitors on the upswing as tourists enjoyed the string of holidays that fuels a busy travel season for Japan.

The troubled world economy has pushed Hawaii's primary industry into a slump, with months of double-digit declines in arrivals and drops in revenues as hotels and others in the industry discount rates to compete with other destinations. Japanese visitors had lessened in numbers in recent years but remain a valued and important part of the visitor mix, as a loyal and traditionally high-spending visitor.

The year-to-date numbers for arrivals from Japan—one of Hawaii’s key sources of visitors—is still respectable considering the global economic downturn, with experts saying the decrease in arrivals is down 9.9 percent.

Now that Japan has had more than 160 cases of H1M1 flu, the travel climate may shift in the coming weeks as travelers weigh how much more of a risk they face from leaving home than staying home.

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