State leaders watching for scare effect on tourism
Hotels were notified early of the arrests so guests could be warned of airport delays
TOURISM executives and state officials reported no measurable declines in travel to Hawaii yesterday after British authorities announced the arrest of 24 people allegedly planning to use liquid explosives to blow up 10 airplanes flying over the Atlantic Ocean.
But executives said it was too early to see any changes in travel patterns and that they were closely watching hotel and airline bookings to see if there was a decline.
"It's just really too soon to tell," said John Monahan, president and chief executive of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, when asked if the reports of the foiled plot appeared to have caused would-be travelers to stay at home.
But Monahan said that executives are monitoring the situation.
"It's our No. 1 industry, so we're going to watch it closely," he said.
Marsha Weinert, tourism liaison with the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, said she learned of the arrests Wednesday night from Hawaii State Civil Defense officials. Weinert said she informed the Hawaii Tourism Authority, a state agency, which informed the Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association and Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. Those organizations sent word to hotels and other member businesses.
Hotels were thus prepared to inform guests of potential delays and new prohibitions barring them from carrying liquids, lotions or gels onto airplanes. At Sheraton Hotels & Resorts properties in Waikiki, for instance, guests were informed in several ways, said Krislyn Hashimoto, public relations manager for the properties, which include the Sheraton Moana Surfrider Hotel, Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel and Sheraton Waikiki Hotel.
For example, Hashimoto said, housekeepers placed fliers in guests rooms in English and Japanese suggesting travelers to neighbor islands allow two hours to check in for interisland flights and three hours for flights to the mainland and international destinations. In addition, she said, a manager was on duty in the lobby of the Moana Surfrider to answer guests' questions, and the Sheraton Waikiki had two television monitors in the lobby tuned to the news to keep travelers informed.
Murray Towill, president of the Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association, said it could take some time to gather hotel room and airline data needed to show whether the incident had an effect on travel to Hawaii. Until then, he said, information is "only going to be anecdotal."
The most important part of the story, Monahan said, is that the plot was foiled.
That, one official said, means the impact on Hawaii might be minimal. "I think it takes a lot for Americans to change their travel plans," said Frank Haas, vice president of tourism marketing for the Hawaii Tourism Authority.