The Buzz

By Erika Engle

Friday, March 23, 2001

Fear and loathing
in Waikiki

GAMBLING legislation has many in the visitor industry squirming out of concern for their bottom lines.

Retail spending in Waikiki is "17 percent off of last year," according to real estate consultant Stephany Sofos. "Visitor numbers are up, but they're not spending, making everyone a bit nervous."

The new DFS Galleria on Kalakaua Avenue opened just in time for the slowdown.

"We don't release sales figures. Certainly 17 percent is a high number -- nonetheless, business could always be better," said Sharon Weiner, DFS Hawaii's group vice president for administration. "The yen at 122 is painful at this point and we continue to lose market share from Japan."

Weiner said the Japanese are still traveling, which is good news, but they are not spending as much, since the yen's value against the dollar continues to slip. Japanese visitors traditionally spend at three times the rate of mainland visitors, Weiner said, so the loss is significant.

Sofos said because of the poor dollar-yen exchange rate, the Japanese have become more frugal. "A big honeymoon thing is they buy each other matching watches," Sofos said. "The rest they spend on seeing what's out there."

Sofos said because the visitor industry and the military are Hawaii's economic keystones, a big concern among many in the retail and visitor industries is proposed gambling legalization.

Rather than diversifying the economy, Sofos is of the opinion gambling would result in spreading visitor dollars more thinly. "They only have so much to spend," she said. "And if they lose it gambling, they won't have it to spend."

A decade of taste

This year's Taste of Honolulu fund-raiser for Easter Seals Hawaii marks the event's 10th anniversary. Multiple "Best of Taste" winners Ciao Mein and Prince Court celebrate a decade as participants, rocking along with attendees to featured entertainment by Beach Boys tribute band Orange Colored Sky. The event will be held in June 22-24 on the grounds of Honolulu Hale.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4757, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached

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