CLEANING UP AFTER THE QUAKES
Quakes to be less of a damper on isle tourism than spring's rains
Sunday morning's earthquakes seem to have sent barely a ripple through the state's otherwise fragile visitor industry.
So far, publicity concerning the quakes hasn't even begun to echo the impact of last spring's 43-day deluge of bad weather that culminated in a fatal dam burst on Kauai and a massive sewage spill in Waikiki.
While Sunday's earthquakes did cause a power outage that disrupted air traffic and daily life for residents and visitors alike, there was no loss of life. Nor are the temblors likely to require an expensive marketing campaign like the one the state rolled out following the spring deluge.
Jan Morgan picks up some of the thousands of books that felt onto the floor of her bookstore in Kapaau on the Big Island after Sunday's earthquakes.
"We're returning to normal," state Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert said.
Hawaii tourism officials were slated to hold an emergency meeting late yesterday to discuss the impact of the quakes, but the general consensus appears to be that there won't be many aftershocks for the state's visitor industry, said Jay Talwar, vice president of marketing for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.
"We had received about 210 calls at our visitor call center by midday, but that's only slightly higher than our normal 175 calls per day," Talwar said.
By day's end, Talwar said that he expects to receive another 90 or so calls.
"About 70 percent of the calls that we've had have been earthquake-related," Talwar said. "I have to think that most of them are due to the coverage that we've had on the mainland."
After receiving status reports, few callers have chosen to cancel their trips, he said.
All hotels and resorts in Hawaii are reported open and operating, Wienert said, and flights are generally operating as scheduled.
The Mauna Lani Resort on the Big Island, which was close to the epicenter of the quake, sustained the most damage, but even that appears to be minimal, the resort said in a statement yesterday.
The resort, which evacuated about 50 guests following the quake, has closed the top three floors of its hotel for further evaluation but sustained no apparent structural damage, and is open for business.
"The resort's pool, beach, golf, spa, restaurants and other amenities are operational. We are thankful that our guests and employees are safe," said Kurt Matsumoto, the Mauna Lani's General Manager.
About a dozen guests staying at Kona by the Sea condominiums had to switch rooms at the property after a water pipe burst, but the property itself sustained little damage, said Kelvin Bloom, president and chief executive officer of ResortQuest Hawaii.
"It's amazing, considering the magnitude of the quakes, that we experienced so little damage," Bloom said. "We are truly grateful."
While it was a challenge for Hawaii's hospitality industry to feed and entertain guests without full power and in inclement conditions, there were few cancellations, Wienert said.
"The visitors seem to have been very understanding," she said.
Several hoteliers compared the earthquakes and the aftermath to the initial confusion of the September 2001 terrorist attacks, and said that they used contingency plans put in place after that tragedy to alleviate some of the stress.
"Frankly, it was reminiscent of 9/11," said Barry Wallace, vice president of hospitality services for hotel company Outrigger Enterprises Group. "We set up communication points in each lobby and had radios going so that guests and staff could get information."
Guests and staff found creative ways to cope with the lack of electricity, but emergency generators restored elevator power and gave Outrigger properties back-up lighting, Wallace said.
There was no shortage of Aloha, he said.
"One guest told me that a bellboy lent her $100 when she couldn't get any money out of the ATM and our restaurants gave away nearly all of their food," Wallace said.
Outrigger also gave guests who had to extend travel rates well below half of the normal price, and waived cancellation fees for visitors who elected not to travel, he said.
Tourism came out largely unscathed on Maui and Kauai, officials said.
Maui escaped any structural or other kind of damage, said Terryl Vencl, executive director for Maui Visitor Bureau.
"We had some cancellations of flights, but really few disruptions all things considered," Vencl said.
And, as if to make up for spring's trauma, Kauai tourism came through the latest natural disaster the most unscathed of all islands.
"We didn't experience any power outages, there were no injuries that we aware of and we've had no damage reported to civil defense," said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau.