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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Missed, but we survived

There was one good thing about the displacement of the Pro Bowl this year from its longtime home at Aloha Stadium: It enabled the tourism industry to do an accounting of what its absence cost.

Using the rough snapshot of Honolulu arrival numbers for the four days leading up to last year's Pro Bowl, which was played Feb. 8 at Aloha Stadium, there were about 42,000 visitors. For the same days this year, domestic arrivals were just under 37,000, down about 12 percent or roughly 5,000 fewer visitors.

Obviously, those numbers don't count every person who came to see the game last year; the Hawai'i Tourism Authority reported that 18,000 people visited Hawai'i specifically to attend the 2009 Pro Bowl and that they spent $29 million, generating $2.9 million in tax revenue.

The Pro Bowl historically has given a bump to the tourism industry just as the snowbird arrivals begin to flatten out in mid-February, and clearly the loss of thousands of free-spending players, coaches and fans was a bummer.

Yet the numbers show that losing the Pro Bowl wasn't a disaster. Of all the years to skip it, maybe the recession-weary winter of 2010 was the perfect time, with even the most dedicated fans more likely to stay home.

There were some other interesting numbers. TV viewership was up 40 percent for the Miami Pro Bowl, which was played before the Super Bowl and aired in prime time on cable. That suggests some changes that could make the Hawai'i Pro Bowl more appealing to viewers, but may create some logistical challenges for Hawai'i.

The Pro Bowl returns to Hawai'i in 2011 and 2012, a deal that is costing the Hawai'i Tourism Authority about $4 million a year.

It'll be great to have the game return, but the world won't end if it doesn't.