Travel Experts: Hawaii Tourism Unscathed Following False Missile Alert

Kapalua Beach, Maui, Hawaii
Photo by cullenphotos/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Travel Agent chatted with several travel specialists about the immediate impact the false missile alert sent out to Hawaii residents on Saturday, January 13, has had on travel demand to the Aloha State.

The consensus?

Hawaii travel specialists, along with the Hawaii Tourism Authority, have all confirmed that it’s business as usual. 

“I had clients depart the day of and my parents are going tomorrow with a group of 18 people,” Katie Rahr Kapel, owner and president of Mode Travel Agency, Inc. “I also have gotten multiple Hawaii requests today so I'm not sure if people just didn't see the news or are not worried. So far it isn't affecting my Hawaii business at all. My parents are also not letting anything get in the way of their trip to paradise.”

According CNN and several other media outlets, an emergency alert notification sent out on Saturday claiming a "ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii" was a false alarm, according to state leaders and emergency officials, who blamed it on an employee who "pushed the wrong button."

“Travel 67 has not seen any drop off of business for Hawaii,” says Patti Lehman, president of Travel 67. "I just booked a family vacation for Oahu and Maui and a honeymoon on Kauai [on Tuesday]. My Hawaii bookings are still very strong."

In December, Hawaii started testing its nuclear warning siren system that would alert residents to an impending nuclear missile strike. According to CNN, this was the first of such tests in Hawaii since the end of the Cold War, and came after several threats from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that his country's missiles are extending their range.

"We at Neal Miller Travel Company in Atlanta, Georgia are very busy booking Hawaii vacation packages for 2018,” Neal Miller told Travel Agent. “To date, we have not had any questions or comments from our clients regarding the Hawaii missile attack false alarm on January 13, 2018."

George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), also provided a statement declaring travel demand for the Hawaiian Islands hasn’t suffered following the false alert.

“Thankfully, we have seen little to no impact in travel demand for the Hawaiian Islands in these first few days following the false alert of an inbound missile threat to Hawaii that was mistakenly issued by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency,” said Szigeti.

Szigeti also noted that there has only been only “a handful of inquiries” to the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureaue (HVCB) to date.

“We are also in contact with the visitor industry locally about potential impacts to their businesses,” said Szigeti. “Industry partners are understandably angry about the false alert, but none have reported to HTA an undue number of cancellations since it was issued.”

Sizgeti concluded the official statement by reiterating how safe and secure Hawaii continues to be. And advisors like Lena Brown at Largay Travel couldn’t agree more. 

"It was a scary incident that the Hawaiian people had to go through but Hawaii will stay strong," Brown told Travel Agent. "I have many clients requesting Hawaii because it is in the U.S. and so easy to get there. With so many tragedies that the [rest of the world has] faced this past year, Hawaii is in high demand for a sunny, beach getaway."

The Full Statement from the HTA

The following statement was issued by George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the HTA:

“Thankfully, we have seen little to no impact in travel demand for the Hawaiian Islands in these first few days following the false alert of an inbound missile threat to Hawaii that was mistakenly issued by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

“We are monitoring this situation closely and maintaining continuous contact with our tourism marketing partners in 10 global travel markets. Thus far, just a small number of concerns have been reported by travelers or travel trade professionals in these markets about coming to Hawaii.

“Additionally, only a handful of inquiries regarding the false alert have been made as of today to the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau’s call center that takes calls and e-mails from people throughout the U.S. mainland interested in travel to Hawaii.

“We are also in contact with the visitor industry locally about potential impacts to their businesses. Industry partners are understandably angry about the false alert, but none have reported to HTA an undue number of cancellations since it was issued.

“We already have in place a strategic marketing program to elevate Hawaii’s brand and help drive travel demand for the Hawaiian Islands in each of our 10 global markets. Our marketing efforts to promote travel to Hawaii will continue unabated. If we see an increase in trip cancellations or a decline in future bookings due to the false alert, we will immediately assess and take the necessary actions to help reverse such a trend from continuing.

“Tourism can be a fragile industry and the confidence of travelers in booking trips can be shaken by an incident like this. Fortunately, in these first few days, the impact on travel to Hawaii appears to be minimal, if at all. Hopefully, that will continue to be the case but we won’t know for certain for several more weeks until we can monitor trends in airline and hotel bookings and gauge the sentiments of travelers. We will be doing this knowing how vital the tourism industry is to supporting jobs and the economic well-being of families and communities statewide.

“Our message to travelers continues to be that there is no cause to cancel trips already booked to Hawaii or to look elsewhere for a vacation because of this false alert. Hawaii is and continues to be a safe, secure and welcoming destination to all visitors from around the world.”

Visit www.gohawaii.com and keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for all your latest travel news. Be sure to follow Travel Agent’s Joe Pike on Twitter @TravelPike and Instagram @pike5260

Related Stories

Hawaii Tourism Authority Speaks Out About False Missile Alert

HTA’s Randy Baldemor Stepping Down as Chief Operating Officer

Things to Do in Oahu

Starwood’s Hottest Island-by-Island Hawaii News