Saturday, October 13, 2001

Trip to Japan reaps
rewards for isle leaders

Japan Airlines and other
businesses vow to support the state

By Richard Borreca

Gov. Ben Cayetano and his team of business and tourism leaders returned from Japan yesterday expressing confidence that Japanese tourists will return.

Cayetano called the nation the state's most important trading partner and said businesses in Japan stand ready to continue marketing Hawaii as a destination.

Walter Dods, chairman and chief executive officer of First Hawaiian Bank, said an encouraging sign was that the president of Japan Airlines promised to restore cut flights.

Shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, JAL announced that it was cutting flights to Hawaii from Japan by 20 percent.

"After our meeting, he said: 'I commit to the people of Hawaii that as soon as the volume builds back, I will add every single flight back and more if needed,' which I thought was an extremely positive statement," Dods said.

Cayetano was encouraged by statistics that show that while travel from Japan to Hawaii is off by 40 percent, travel to the U.S. mainland is off 80 percent.

"The meetings with Japanese political leaders exceeded our expectations," Cayetano said.

Cayetano said he hoped that because of the meetings held during the week in Tokyo and Osaka, Japanese entertainers will stage a Christmas show in Hawaii. He is also buoyed by reports that a Japanese baseball team will travel to Hawaii and plans to send television features to Japan about Japanese visitors enjoying Hawaii.

Dods said Hawaii's contingent of political and business leaders provided a show of solidarity that Japanese businesses found encouraging.

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