Asia Minute: Slowing Asian Economies are Key Markets for Hawaii Tourism

Dec 16, 2019

The end of the week brought some troubling economic news for two of Hawaii’s key tourism markets. Both Japan and South Korea have seen slowing business, and policy makers are cautious heading into the end of the year.

Every quarter, the Bank of Japan asks companies of all sizes about how business is going, and how confident they are about the future. The results are called “The Tankan” — a set of business confidence data that’s closely examined by policymakers and executives.

Business confidence has been pretty glum in Japan this year. The survey out Friday showed a decline for the past four quarters in a row. That’s the longest consistently negative stretch in a decade — since the collapse of Lehman Brothers launched a global financial crisis. 

One factor: the national consumption tax, which was raised in October for the first time in five years — leading to an immediate drop in consumer spending.

Another concern: a continuing slowdown in trade. Falling exports also remain a trouble spot for South Korea — where the Finance Ministry released its latest monthly report on the economy on Friday. That showed a fall in exports for the 12th month in a row through November — as well as an overall slowing economy.

One bright spot: a slight rise in consumer spending. And it’s those consumer spending figures in both countries that may be of greatest interest to the local travel industry.

Japan is Hawaii’s largest foreign market for tourists – by far. Hawaii Tourism Authority figures for the year to date show South Korea is number four behind Japan, Canada and Australia.