Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Remember 9-11-01

Isle tourism showing
signs of rebound,
economist says

Paul Brewbaker sees similarities
to the pattern after the Gulf War

By Russ Lynch

Tourist arrival counts in Hawaii since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States are encouraging, according to Paul Brewbaker, chief economist at the Bank of Hawaii.

He said the pattern is similar to that of the Gulf War in 1991, an initial sharp decline followed by a recovery. Because events continue to unfold, it is too early to tell if there is an exact comparison, Brewbaker said in a statement issued yesterday. "However the data thus far illustrates the resilience of tourism in general and in certain market segments," he said.

State figures showed that September passenger arrivals at Hawaii's airports were down 27 percent from the September 2000 level. When the Gulf War broke out a decade ago, there was a 22.4 percent decline in the Hawaii visitor count. "The September 2001 numbers are remarkable, given the fact that for three days there were virtually no flights to Hawaii," Brewbaker said.

International passenger arrivals in September, mostly from Japan, were down 40.5 percent from the previous September, but in the first week of October the decline had eased to between 30 and 40 percent below the same days of last year, he said.

Some tourist industry executives are not as encouraged as Brewbaker. Last week for example, Paul J. Casey, co-chairman and chief executive officer of Hawaiian Airlines, told a legislative panel that he was concerned the current figures might just be showing that travelers who had planned to come to the islands in September put back their trips to October. The real concern, Casey said, is that bookings for the rest of the year are low and there is no way to measure how much of a setback Hawaii might be facing.

The latest state figures show a total of 34,097 international passenger arrivals in the first nine days of October, down 37.4 percent from 54,445 in the first nine days of October 2000.

Total domestic and international passenger arrivals through the first seven days of October were down 33.5 percent from the first week of October last year, a combined total of 95,818 compared to a year-earlier 143,980

A report from the accounting and consulting firm Ernst & Young shows Hawaii hotel occupancy was down as much as 52 percent in the week after the Sept. 11 disaster, compared to the same time last year. Nationally, hotel occupancy was down 26 percent that week, said the report. The difference, Ernst & Young said, was Hawaii's dependence on airlines.

Airlines have said they will be happy to add capacity as there is demand for it.

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