Hawaii tourism braces for economic impact of Japan disaster

HAWAII Hoteliers in Hawaii are preparing for thousands of cancellations in the wake of the devastation across the Pacific Ocean, as Japanese travelers are a major source market for the state’s struggling tourism industry.

Governor Neil Abercrombie says the economic hit to the islands from cancelled or unscheduled trips will be “profound,” Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. Japan is the state’s largest international source market, accounting for about 17% of Hawaii’s visitors in 2010.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts alone reports about 2,000 cancellations from Japanese visitors to Hawaii. “We are trying to rebook them, but there are so many unknowns,” says Keith Vieira, senior vice president and director of operations for Starwood in Hawaii and French Polynesia. “We have to address the grieving and extend our sympathy before we can begin to repair the market.”

Outrigger Hotels & Resorts expects cancellations to number in the hundreds, and the company says most of those guestrooms will go unfilled.