Thursday, March 6, 2003

Lingle urged to court
war-jittery Japanese

By Pat Omandam

If the United States attacks Iraq, Gov. Linda Lingle should lead a delegation to Japan and encourage Japanese travelers to continue coming to Hawaii, says state House Speaker Calvin Say.

Say (D, Palolo) said dispatching a "speaker's delegation" to Japan was among the recommendations from the House Committee on War Preparedness. The delegation, to be comprised of business and government leaders, should leave two or three weeks after war begins, he said.

"I would share with you that without the governor's support and cooperation, I don't believe the delegation will be successful," Say said yesterday. "We need her in Japan."

But Lingle said yesterday she has already spoken with the Japanese Consulate General in Hawaii about steps to take before a war begins. She added it is too early to plan a trip to Japan.

"We'll just have to see how it plays out," Lingle said. "I hope to travel to Japan and other countries in the coming year."

Say said forecasts from travel agencies are that Japanese visitors may not be coming because of U.S. preparations for war in the Middle East. Hawaii needs to let Japanese know it is safe and they are welcome here, he said.

The idea is not new. In October 2001, then-Gov. Ben Cayetano led a Hawaii delegation on a "Governor's Aloha Mission" to Japan to encourage Hawaii visits in the months following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That group included sumo wrestler Akebono, a Hawaii native, as well as two former Hawaii governors and mayors of other islands.

Peter Schall, senior vice president of the Hawaii region for Hilton Hotels, said that trip was beneficial as the group met with the prime minister of Japan and various leaders who held news conferences to encourage Japanese to travel to Hawaii.

Schall, a member of the speakers delegation, said the Cayetano trip was followed up with advertising and special promotions and packages that helped restore Japanese tourism back to pre-9/11 numbers within a year.

"We believe that type of delegation will at least stimulate the marketplace and encourage people to continue to travel," Schall said yesterday.

Speakers delegation member Rex Johnson, director of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said an advertising campaign would likely follow this trip, but there is no time frame yet on when it would begin.

Other members of the delegation are George Ariyoshi, former governor; Mike Shibuya, Paradise Beverages president; and banker Walter Dods, Hawaii chairman of the Japan-Hawaii Economic Council.

House Vice Speaker Sylvia Luke (D, Dowsett Highlands-Punchbowl), who heads the War Preparedness Committee, said testimony from the Japan Tourism Association and the travel industry was positive to a Hawaii delegation. Luke said she does not know how much this trip would cost, but believes the HTA will likely cover the expenses, as it did for Cayetano's trip.

Office of the Governor

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