Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Orthodontists brace
isle tourism

The HVCB says more groups
like the dentist conventioneers
will help the economy

By Russ Lynch

A major Hawaii convention that could have been called off in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist hijackings is here with few cancellations. And the organizers say the aloha they have experienced reinforces their decision to bring a much bigger meeting to the islands in 2003.

The Pacific Coast Society of Orthodontists considered canceling its Hawaii convention, which was scheduled to start with arrivals Sunday, but decided Hawaii is a safe place and the meeting should go ahead, said Phillip Rollins, the organization's executive director.

When the numbers were added up, he told a news conference at the Hilton Hawaiian Village yesterday, only about 300 of a planned 2,350 attendance did not commit to come to the meeting.

"We didn't know how serious the cancellations were going to be," Rollins said. "We haven't had that many cancellations."


Chris Vranas, associate executive director of the association, said the dental group wants to come back for its national convention, which should bring some 20,000 people to Hawaii in 2003.

Safety was a major concern but conventioneers chose to believe that airline travel was safe, Rollins said. There were so few cancellations that it was obvious people felt it was safe to come to Hawaii, he said. The biggest worry was that airline schedules might be so disrupted people would not get home to their kids in time and that did cause some fall-off, but the attendance was a lot bigger than might have been expected in the circumstances, Rollins said.


Vranas said the association has been coming to Hawaii for many years and will keep coming.

The group that is here now is the Pacific association, only a part of the national group planning to come in two years, he said.

Zenaida McLin, director of convention services of the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, said such meetings are important for Hawaii. When the 20,000-member convention takes place "they will all be here on Oahu for three days but 8,000 will go to the neighbor islands," she sad.

Peter Schall, vice president-Hawaii region for Hilton Hotels Corp. and general manager of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort & Spa, said Hawaii tourism will recover from the setback that has visitor arrivals down 30 percent to 40 percent in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

But Schall, who is also chairman of the Hawaii Tourism Authority marketing committee, said getting tourism back on its feet will take time.

"We need to energetically go out and market Hawaii," said Schall, who heads a three-person committee appointed by Gov. Ben Cayetano to look for solutions in the current crisis

A sports leader who sat in on the loosely organized discussion with reporters said loyalty to Hawaii plays a big part in decisions. Mitch Kupchak, general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, said the Lakers came to Hawaii for this week's previously organized training session at the University of Hawaii and two games because it was the right thing to do.

"We've been coming to Hawaii for over a decade, but not for the last four years. We were going to come to Hawaii, play our games and train with the university" and could not see any reason not to, Kupchak said.

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