HONOLULU – A tsunami spawned by the deadly earthquake in Japan caused tens of millions of dollars in damage to homes, businesses and boats in Hawaii after the waves roared ashore last week.

Now the islands are bracing for another hit — a loss in travelers from Japan.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie predicted the economic consequences will be severe for this tourism-dependent state that is already dealing with a projected shortfall of nearly $1 billion over the next two years.

“It’s going to be terrible. It’s going to be rough,” he said this week. “It’s something that we have to come to grips with.”

Hawaii is the top U.S. destination for the Japanese, hosting more than 1.2 million of the 16.6 million total outbound tourists last year. Visitors from Japan poured about $1.9 billion into Hawaii in 2010, or about 17 percent of the $11.4 billion overall visitor revenue.

The Japanese are treasured in the Aloha State for their affection for shopping and dining. They also embrace Hawaiian culture and outspend American visitors nearly 2-to-1 on a per-person, per-day average. Each day, there are 13 direct flights from Japan to Hawaii, bringing in anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 tourists.

The tragedy is being followed closely here and has prompted residents, businesses and government leaders to respond with widespread fundraising efforts in this state, which has close ties with Japan. The first Japanese immigrants arrived here more than a century ago to work on the sugar cane fields with their children and grandchildren, rising to prominence and power. Today, about a quarter of the state’s population, or 296,674 residents, identified themselves as being part or full Japanese descent, according to the 2000 Census.

The fundraising efforts range from concerts to donations accepted at most banks in a new statewide campaign called “Aloha for Japan.” Telephone service providers are offering free phone calls to Japan, and the Hawaii-based U.S. Pacific Fleet is also helping in relief and rescue operations.

“This market is very important to us,” said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. “(But) for us, first of all, we’re most concerned about their well-being. More than dollars and cents, that’s No. 1.”

Hawaii has already experienced the cancellation of several groups from Japan, resulting in the loss of thousands of visitor arrivals.

H.I.S. Hawaii, a travel agency that handles about a fifth of all Japanese travel to Hawaii, saw new bookings plummet by half and cancellations tripling in the first three days after the March 11 earthquake, said Naomi Hashizume, the company’s assistant general manager.

However, that rate dropped to less than 10 percent starting Wednesday and she is hopeful that the market will bounce back when power is fully restored in Japan and life returns to some degree of normalcy.

Hawaii has experienced sharp declines in the number of Japanese travelers after past tragedies, from the deadly 1995 Kobe earthquake to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.