HawaiiHawaii visitor numbers begin to pick up even as lava threat grows.

Who’s afraid of an erupting volcano? Clearly, not the Japanese

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Japan has over 100 active volcanoes, and is used to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Japan has over 100 active volcanoes, and is used to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

ForwardKeys reported that international flight bookings to Hawaii for the period of May 3 to May 31 fell 9.8%, with Canada down 23.2%, Australia down 32.2%, China down 39.8%, Germany down 47.7% and New Zealand down 27.5%. 

Following the eruption of the Kilauea volcano on May 3, international flight bookings to Hawaii (not including the U.S.) were down nearly 10%, according to flight analysis firm ForwardKeys.

ForwardKeys reported that international flight bookings to Hawaii for the period of May 3 to May 31 fell 9.8%, with Canada down 23.2%, Australia down 32.2%, China down 39.8%, Germany down 47.7% and New Zealand down 27.5%. 

The one source market that bucked the trend was Japan, from where bookings to Hawaii were up 10.6% during the same period.

"Normally, the Japanese market is super-sensitive to crisis situations and it is the first to cancel when any form of trouble occurs in a destination. Our hypothesis is that because Japan has over 100 active volcanoes, it is so used to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that they cease to be newsworthy," stated ForwardKeys CEO and co-founder Olivier Jager.

In the latest eruption, Hawaii's Kilauea volcano claimed the picturesque Kapoho Bay as it filled the bay with molten lava flows. Hundreds of homes were destroyed as rivers of lava poured into oceanfront communities.

Despite the drop-offs in May, looking ahead to the coming five-month period until the end of October, forward bookings are still 2.2% above where they were at this time last year. International flight bookings to Hawaii for June and July are just 0.5% and 1.6% behind where they were last year, respectively, and bookings for August, September and October are ahead 6.7%, 7.9% and 2.3%, respectively.

"Given the magnitude of media coverage, forward bookings to Hawaii are holding up surprisingly well. We are also aware that the vast majority of Japanese and other international visitors to Hawaii stay in Honolulu, which is on a different island from the one where Kilauea is erupting," stated Jager. 

"We believe that the messages from the governor and the Hawaii Tourism Authority that the volcano is in a remote location, over 100 miles from the main tourist resort areas, and that the islands are open for business, have credibility and are, to a significant extent, being heeded."

Prior to the volcano erupting, Hawaii's international flight bookings were on an upswing. During the first four months of 2018, total international flight bookings to Hawaii (excluding the U.S.) were up 5.4%, compared with the same period last year, according to ForwardKeys. 

ForwardKeys analyses more than 17 million flight booking transactions a day, drawing data from major global air reservation systems and selected airlines and tour operators, among other sources.

"There's been a little decline [in occupancy] but that's starting to dissipate," said Jeff Wagoner, president and CEO of Outrigger Hotels and Resorts, which has properties on the Big Island that are all on the west side of the island near Kona, 100 miles from the volcano.

“We've found that as people call and inquire, once we are able to educate them, they do not cancel," added Wagoner.

Source:Travel Weekly USA


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