Where do people vacation when they don’t go to Hawaii?
According to Hawaii, they go to the Caribbean and Mexico. The eruption of the Kilauea Volcano has caused a drop in tourism on the Big Island. People do not visit, and cruise ships sail elsewhere. But most travelers probably do not cancel their trips altogether.
According to The Hawaiian Tourism Bureau:
Hawai‘i will continue to face stiff competition for U.S. travelers in 2018. Recent data from the National Travel and Tourism Office shows that the number of American travelers to the Caribbean and Mexico reached double-digit growth in the first two quarters of 2017.
Even with growing danger for Americans traveling in Mexico, visits to Mexico City were up 19% for the period. Visits to Cancun rose 10%. That does not include travel to the dozens of islands in the Caribbean, which the bureau said are dominated by Puerto Rico, Cuba and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Hawaii’s biggest problem may not be that tourists aren’t visiting now. Since many people make their trips well in advance, and the destruction from Kilauea will spread considerably, people who might have gone to Hawaii in the months, and even years, ahead will go elsewhere.
Mexico and the Caribbean not only have weather similar to Hawaii, but they are also much closer for many Americans. People on the West Coast can travel to Mexico City in under four hours, two less than visiting Hawaii. For people in the middle and eastern portions of the United States, the travel time is less by several more hours.
There have been a number of estimates of what the volcano will cost Hawaii in gross domestic product. Tourism is close to a third of Hawaii’s GDP. On the other hand, travel to the Big Island is a fraction of the total numbers. Many visitors prefer the areas around the population centers of Honolulu and Kahului. However, just under 19% of tourist visits are to the Big Island.
The total damage, both to property and tourism, probably won’t be available until months after the volcano stops erupting. What is clear already is that it will put a dent in the local economy. Travelers have several similar places to go.