Hawaii Volcano: Short-Term Pain, Forward Bookings Strong

Open Jaw, Bruce Parkinson

According to the latest figures from ForwardKeys which predicts future travel patterns by analyzing 17 million booking transactions a day, the devastating effects of the eruption of the Kilauea volcano have extended to Hawaii’s tourism industry too.

In the first four months of this year, total international flight bookings to Hawaii (excluding the USA) were up 5.4%, compared with the same period last year, with four of its five most important origin markets booking strongly. Japan was up 4.5%, Australia was up 12.6%, China was up 12.0%, Germany was up 29.3% and New Zealand was up 16.0%; only Canada was down, and by just 1.4%. 

All that changed after the eruption of Kilauea on 3MAY. Bookings for the period 1-31MAY slumped by 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 to buck this trend was Japan, from where bookings actually rose by 10.6%.

“Normally, the Japanese market is super-sensitive to crisis situations and the first to cancel when any form of trouble occurs in a destination,” says ForwardKeys CEO and co-founder Olivier Jager. “Our hypothesis is that because Japan sits on the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’ and has over a hundred active volcanoes, it is so used to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that they cease to be newsworthy.”

While bookings in May have suffered, looking ahead to the end of October, overall forward bookings are still 2.2% ahead of where they were at this time last year. Bookings for June and July are just 0.5% and 1.6% behind and bookings for August, September and October are ahead 6.7%, 7.9% and 2.3% respectively, so the tourism outlook seems less worrying than might have been feared.

Looking at Hawaii’s most important forward bookings by origin market, Japan is 3.2% ahead, Australia 6.7%, Canada 3.1%, Germany 6.8% and New Zealand is 27% ahead. A major driver of bookings from New Zealand has been a substantial increase in capacity, with nearly 60% more seats available in the June – October period. The great disappointment is China, from where bookings are currently 18.9% behind for the period to the end of October.

Jager concluded: “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. Therefore, 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.” 

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.

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