Tuesday, September 25, 2001

Remember 9-11-01

Only a few guests at the Waikiki Beach Marriott
Resort took in the sunset on Sunday.

Crisis in tourism

Tourism industry leaders say
the state needs to act fast

By Russ Lynch

Saving Hawaii's tourism industry -- which employs many more workers than any other sector of the Hawaii economy -- will need industrywide teamwork, a lot of price discounting and rapid promotion, industry leaders said yesterday.

Preliminary statistics from the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism show the extent of the immediate drop in tourist arrivals after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

On Sept. 13, the first day the nation's airports reopened, Honolulu Airport had 906 arrivals from the mainland, about 10 percent of the 9,082 that arrived on the same date a year ago. On Sept. 14, with airports beginning to get into full swing, Hawaii had 7,656 arrivals but that was still 20 percent below the 9,537 for the same Friday of 2000.

Japan arrivals look even worse. On Sept. 15, Honolulu had 1,691 arrivals from Japan. On the equivalent Saturday last year, the Japanese total was 6,667, showing a 75 percent decline.

Daily tourism arrival numbers and unemployment figures are now posted on the DBEDT Web site, dbedt.

At a meeting yesterday of the Hawaii Tourism Authority's Marketing Committee, industry leaders said there are signs that Hawaii tourism may recover from the devastation of the travel industry. For now, they said, almost all of the daily flights scheduled into Hawaii before the crisis are still running.

But the overall opinion from the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, the Hawaii Hotel Association, the Hawaii Restaurant Association, the Hawaii Attractions Association, airlines and other daily operators in the tourism industry is that action must be taken fast.

That feeling was based on opinions that so far Hawaii tourism -- which depends almost entirely on the sentiment of people who travel solely for leisure -- does not look as bad as it might have for the next few months, but potential tourists will need to be persuaded that it is OK to travel and that Hawaii is a safe U.S. destination.

Thomas J. Renville, United Airlines managing director for Hawaii, said almost all of his company's flights are coming to Hawaii, but occupancy has fallen. Nevertheless, he said, planes are still coming to Honolulu more than 60 percent occupied and flights to the Neighbor Islands are doing better than that.

United has not stopped any of its mainland-Neighbor Island flights, he said, and the service to Lihue, Kauai, is in the 80-percent booking range. But Hawaii must rapidly put out a positive image.

"We need to start having TV shots of beaches with people on them," he said.

Paul J. Casey, vice chairman and chief executive officer of Hawaiian Airlines, said his airline has had to cut a couple of mainland flights and will lay off some employees.

"It's painful. It's necessary," Casey said. Although there have been cancellations of trips to Hawaii, "I do see some signs of rebooking ... which is good."

"The 15 days around Christmas look good," Casey said.

It's vital, he said, that Hawaii broadcast positive messages, such as government leaders urging people to get back to normal and travel, the Air Transport Association's belief that airline travel is safe, and the fact that Hawaii is a safe place to visit.

Murray Towill, president of the Hawaii Hotel Association, made a point to Tourism Authority's largely Oahu-oriented committee that getting tourism to recover is a statewide problem.

"Let's not lose sight of the fact that we need to have a statewide focus," Towill said, adding that half his association's members are on islands other than Oahu.

He urged tourism promoters to "take your actions now" and not to wait, and said hotels statewide are 25 percent to 50 percent below their occupancy expectations.

Still, the cancellation rate of hotel bookings is slowing and "most of the cancellations we've seen are rebooking" for later this year or early next year, Towill said.

Lori Lum, representing the Hawaii Attractions Association, said her members are hit at various levels depending on their customer mix. Those depending almost entirely on the Japanese market are faring the worst, she said.

But Lum said there are some proposals her members like, such as those raised with Gov. Ben Cayetano at a meeting of small business executives Saturday. They include "Hawaii dollars," chits that could be given to mainland tourists for discounts at attractions, and the idea of a "family reunion" promotion.

It would involve "healing" trips, getting people together out here where it is safe, to regroup and move on, she said. But Lum acknowledged that it is a sensitive issue and timing would need to be carefully addressed.

Pat McCain, president of the Hawaii Restaurant Association, said residents can help by going out and enjoying kamaaina rates at local restaurants and by spreading the message it is all right to visit Hawaii.

"The thing that occurs to us," McCain said, "is that everybody seems to be scared to death and we're suffering a crisis of confidence."


Sudden drop

Tourist arrivals to Honolulu dropped sharply in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Here are preliminary figures, beginning after the nation's airports reopened, including percent change from the same day a year ago.

Domestic passengers

DateArrivals% Change
Sept. 13906-90%
Sept. 147,656-20%
Sept. 156,967-38%
Sept. 167,008-30%
Sept. 177,156-31%
Sept. 186,123-9%
Sept. 196,432-27%
Sept. 206,414-32%
Sept. 217,336-15%
Sept. 227,201-28%

International passengers

DateArrivals% Change
Sept. 151,691-75%
Sept. 161,698-69%
Sept. 171,210-77%
Sept. 182,860-30%
Sept. 192,343-56%
Sept. 202,901-29%
Sept. 212,887-45%

Source: DBEDT

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