Metro areas feel 9/11 fallout
By Will Lester
WASHINGTON Major American cities have suffered serious declines in travel and tourism over the last two years because of the depressed economy and the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to a study released yesterday.
The study said the top 100 metropolitan areas in the country including Honolulu have lost a total of 536,000 jobs and $22.6 billion since the end of 2000, about half of it attributed to the fallout from the terrorist attacks and public fears about travel and terrorism.
The study confirms what Hawai'i's tourism industry has known, but highlights the hardships that are hitting other cities as well.
The study noted that tourism was a $263 billion industry in the leading 100 metropolitan areas in 2000 providing 3.9 million jobs.
But since then tourism job losses have been especially heavy in Phoenix, San Diego, Houston and Orlando, Fla., said the study conducted by DRI-WEFA, an economic research firm, for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Travel Business Roundtable and the International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus.
New York, where terrorists attacked the World Trade Center Sept. 11, 2001, has lost an estimated 17 percent of the $17.6 billion that tourism brought to the metro area during 2000.
And Washington, D.C., which saw the Pentagon attacked, has lost about 11.3 percent of the $10.2 billion tourism brought during 2000.
The study said Honolulu has lost an estimated 19.7 percent of the $4.5 billion tourism brought during 2000.
"Tourism is not a nameless, faceless industry," said Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, chairman of a task force on travel and tourism for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. "If people make fewer trips to a city, the chances are that fewer are people working in hotels, fewer families are being employed in the industry."
The study notes that tourism revenue generates nearly 14 percent of all of Honolulu's gross metropolitan product and accounts for 15 percent of total employment ranking the city second-highest in tourism importance behind Las Vegas. The study said tourism accounts for 14.4 percent of all of Las Vegas gross metropolitan product and 15.5 percent of all of its jobs.
Among other things, the mayors want President Bush to create a presidential advisory council on travel and tourism and for Congress to enact tax credits that help unskilled and disadvantaged workers receive job training for the travel and tourism industries.
While some areas of travel have improved in recent months, international visitors have faltered. In Hawai'i, Japanese arrivals are still off as much as 20 percent since the Sept. 11 attacks. The study noted that spending by international visitors contributed nearly $90 billion to the United States in 2001 or nearly 10 percent of total exports to the United States, exceeding the export value of major industries including automobiles.
Most of those expenditures, the study said, are in metropolitan areas, which lost $7.7 billion in 2001 an 11.6 percent decline. About $7.5 billion of that loss is attributed to the terrorist attacks. The study estimates another $12 billion will be lost this year.
Honolulu ranked among the top five metro areas in international visitor spending behind New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami. The study said international spending on O'ahu/Honolulu was $5.3 billion in 2000, dropping to $4.67 billion last year. Spending this year is estimated to reach $4.59 billion.