Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Remember 9-11-01

Drastic business
drops hit hotels,
tourist companies

The Local 5 hotel union scrambles
to help members keep jobs and benefits

Japan Airlines' business dropped but is picking up

By Russ Lynch and Rosemarie Bernardo

Hawaii hotels are telling many of their workers they are not needed for now because of a serious drop in business after last week's terrorist attacks on the United States.

Not only are hotels being affected, some tourism businesses foresee layoffs within the next three months if reservation figures continue to drop.

The union that represents some 5,000 workers at Waikiki's major hotels is scrambling to help its members hold on to their jobs and medical benefits in the face of what seems to be the biggest drop in the history of Hawaii's tourism.

"It's ugly now and it might get uglier," said Eric Gill, financial secretary-treasurer of Local 5 of the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees, AFL-CIO.

Neither the hotels nor the union would say late yesterday how many jobs are affected or for how long, but it was clear hundreds of hotel workers won't be getting work, or pay, for a time.

Outrigger Hotels & Resorts have not laid off any workers and aren't planning any layoffs, said Jim Austin, Outrigger spokesman.

Paula Imamura, public relations manager at the 2,998-room Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort & Spa, said, "We had to adjust our staff based on our occupancy." But Imamura said there have been no layoffs, just an adjustment of available work hours.

The hotel is less than half full this week, another spokes- woman said Monday, but she said conventions and groups booked for October and beyond have not so much canceled as postponed.

"It's not that they're not coming. It's just that they are going to wait," making their trips after travel difficulties such as airline cutbacks and hours-long security checks have had time to settle down, she said.

Keith Vieira, vice president and director of Hawaii operations for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., which operates the Sheraton and Westin hotels, said, "This week looks very bad."

Vieira did not say how many jobs were affected. He mentioned the lower hotel occupancy figures were expected after flights from Japan to Hawaii were canceled because of the attacks.

Also, hotels are looking at reduced hours for certain restaurants. Some restaurants may operate five nights a week instead of seven nights a week, he said.

Gill said the union's effort now is to keep as much work as possible for its members and hold on to medical benefits for those who are furloughed.

"Every hotel is retrenching" in light of the drop in business, he said.

For tourism businesses such as Germaine's Luau, decreased reservation figures may lead to layoffs in the next two to three months, said reservations agent Keola Castillo.

Germaine's, which holds luaus at Campbell Industrial Park nightly except for Mondays, has had lower attendance. Reservations have dropped more than 50 percent, Castillo said.

If the drop continues, management will probably lay off employees, he said.

"It's hurting everybody," Castillo said. The company has business relationships with tour agents, bus drivers and store owners such as the ABC stores.

Last year, between 400 and 500 people made reservations nightly at Germaine's Luau. Within the last few days, about 200 to 250 people have called for reservations, Castillo said.

"Business is slowing down," he said.

Japan Airlines’ business
dropped but is picking up

Fallout from last week's terrorist attacks dropped Japan Airlines to as few as seven passengers on a flight to Hawaii last week, though business is now climbing rapidly back to normal, the company says.

Today, JAL expected to bring 1,300 people to Hawaii on 10 flights, still averaging only 130 people a flight, well below full loads but a definite step toward recovery, said Gilbert Kimura, the airline's regional sales manager.

"It seems like right after the tragic incidents, wholesalers canceled everything," Kimura said. "Now they've started selling and business seems to be picking up."

JAL averages 11 flights a day in normal times and for this month will be running 10 a day, Kimura said.

JAL returned to service Saturday and brought in 11 flights with a total of 698 people, averaging about 63 people per flight. Ten flights came in Sunday, carrying a total of 588. Nine flights on Monday brought 520.

But yesterday JAL had a total of 1,227 on nine flights and business was clearly picking up, Kimura said.

One of JAL's problems is it has built up Hawaii business in recent years by flying directly from local airports in regions such as Nagoya and Sapporo. Those flights can't be consolidated into Tokyo-Honolulu flights, so the airline has to live with low passenger loads.

"But regional business has been good. That's our future," Kimura said.

For now, the airline is telling wholesalers in Japan its Hawaii flights are running and it's time to get out and sell, he said.

Russ Lynch, Star-Bulletin

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