New virus could hurt Hawaii's tourism industry: report
HONOLULU -- A research report has predicted Hawaii may be hit by the economic fallout of a new virus, negatively affecting the tourism industry.
The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization said the spread of COVID-19 could undermine previous predictions that 2020 would be a better year for tourism than 2019.
The organization's latest quarterly forecast on the state's visitor industry released Monday said the virus that started in China has changed its previous calculation.
"I think if it hadn't been for this virus outbreak, it probably would have been better -- mostly because the global economy was sort of repairing itself," said Carl Bonham, the organization's executive director.
"Trade tensions had eased up a little bit. We were expecting some recovery in 2020, and now that hope has sort of been dashed," Bonham said.
In the organization's report titled, "Coronavirus Presents Danger To Hawaii Tourism," economists used the results of the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome epidemic to predict the effects of the new virus on Hawaii tourism.
"The scenario that we run, everything that happens in terms of how tourism performs and how the overall Hawaii economy performs over the next year is going to depend on how this virus progresses," Bonham said. "If the virus dies out quickly, like it did in the SARS episode, then the rebound can happen very, very quickly as well."
Hawaii visitor industry and government officials have not sounded an alarm about COVID-19, which they say has had little impact so far on the state's tourism-driven economy.
Officials were quick to note that only about 94,000 visitors from China came to Hawaii last year, comprising less than 1% of the state's 10.4 million arrivals.
"We still think it's a bit early to make those kind of predictions," said Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association.