By William Spain and Carla Mozee •
Published: March 27, 2011
/articleid/3551853/1/pictures/1385973"> The disaster in Japan is likely to affect travel to and from Japan for some time as on this South Korean flight to Japan with many empty passengers seats.AP Photo
“Not to say that the reality of what is going on in Japan has not set in. We still may encounter some cancellations, but I think the patterns show how resilient this nation is. I think it’s still too early to say that the market isn’t going to be affected; it definitely is.”
He concluded: “As things escalate in Japan, of course, the severity of the impact is going to be felt here.”
Hotel operators in the Aloha State, including large multinational chains like Marriott International Inc., Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., Hyatt Hotels Corp. and Hilton, would likely have the most to lose from any drops in visitation.
There already have been reports of significant cancellations, with a Starwood spokesman telling Hawaii’s KITV last week that several large tour groups, representing thousands of travelers, had canceled their plans without booking new dates.
In California, Japan represents the second-largest overseas market after the United Kingdom, but its visitor count has been halved over the last decade while its market share went from 22 percent to 16 percent.
Visitors from Japan spent about $502 million in the Golden State in 2009, staying about seven nights on average and dropping almost $1,100 apiece, slightly below the 12-night and $1,200 average for all overseas visitors to California.
According to a report from the California Travel & Tourism Commission, travel from Japan declined to a 10-year low in 2003 following the terror attacks and the SARS crisis.
“Japanese residents have increased short-haul travel to other Asian countries in recent years, but travel to the U.S. has not recovered to the pre-9/11 level,” the report noted. But, “in 2009, the number of overseas visitors from Japan to California dropped even lower than the 2003 level.”
In all, the United States is the second most popular destination after France for international travelers, with 56 million annual arrivals. But of the top 10 source markets, only two — Brazil and Australia — sent more tourists here in 2009 than the year before.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services