A little over six weeks ago, Jack Richards, president and CEO of Pleasant Holidays, told Travel Weekly his company had seen 60 Hawaii vacation cancellations in just two days, all resulting from customers’ fears of radiation from Japan’s nuclear disaster.
“That’s all stopped,” Richards said on April 18. “There’s nothing that I’m concerned about in terms of radiation or anything like that. … That was a very short-term issue, and the HVCB did a very good job getting the word out.”
Hawaii’s North American marketing engine got a big boost from a preeminent Oahu native.
“I want to be clear,” President Obama said during a nationally televised speech on March 17. “We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the United States, whether it’s the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska or U.S. territories in the Pacific.”
That message, and others like it from a range of experts, appears to have made an impact on potential Hawaii travelers.
For example, while Classic Vacations Co-president Greg Bernd said his company “definitely saw a slowdown for the remainder of March” and also suffered some radiation-related Hawaii cancellations, “We’ve seen things start to pick up a bit again. … And we’re pretty optimistic that it’s going to come back. Even just last week, we were starting to see the numbers rebound.”
However, both Richards and Bernd were quick to mention their growing concerns about increasing airfare costs to Hawaii resulting from higher oil prices.
“There is no question airfares are going up,” Richards said. “That to me is the single biggest threat to Hawaii for the peak summer travel season.”
In an effort to drive post-tsunami bookings, Classic extended its Head Over Heels for Hawaii promotion, which includes up to $750 off the cost of airfare for five-night stays, through April 30. Bernd said that with flight costs rising, the special will likely be extended another 30 days.
According to Richards, most of Pleasant’s Hawaii hotel partners have not yet begun discounting room rates to offset increasing airfare costs to the islands.
“I think everybody is kind of waiting for the dust to settle on the Japan issue,” he said. “From our talks with suppliers, they seem to be waiting to see what the Japanese market is going to do. … We anticipate seeing changes once the Easter holiday is concluded. I think there are going to have to be price adjustments.”