ForwardKeys analyzed travel bookings before and after the eruption of the Kilauea volcano and revealed the effects of the eruption on travel bookings.

Hawaii Kilauea volcano eruption

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, 1.4%.

However, all that changed after the eruption of Kilauea on May 3rd. Bookings for the period 3rd-31st May 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 were 10.6% up!

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ForwardKeys CEO and co-founder, Olivier Jager, said: “Normally, the Japanese market is super-sensitive to crisis situations and it is the first to cancel when any form of trouble occurs in a destination. 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; indeed, the situation in Hawaii has featured less in the news in Japan than it has elsewhere. An analysis of online news clips of the Kilauea eruption revealed that media exposure in Japan was just 0.2% of total exposure worldwide.”

Whilst bookings in May have suffered, looking ahead, over the coming five-month period to the end of October, 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.

Analysing Hawaii’s most important forward bookings by origin market, Japan is 3.2% ahead, Australia is 6.7%, Canada is 3.1% ahead, Germany is 6.8% ahead and New Zealand is 27.0% 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.

Olivier 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.”