Thursday, October 18, 2001

Remember 9-11-01

Retailers say sales dropped as much as 80 percent
when tourists stayed home after the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks.

cashing out

Retailers say sales have taken a
beating and are still down

By Russ Lynch

Hawaii retailers saw business drop as much as 80 percent after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the common is that they are down by at least half, the head of a retailers' group said yesterday.

"There is not a lot of cash out there," said Carol Pregill, executive director of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii. Cash register numbers aside, retailers do what they always do, looking for store-name shopping bags in the malls.

"We don't see the bags out there," Pregill said.

There is a plus side for local residents, however, a theme pushed by other tourism representatives also -- there are bargains to be had.

"We've got lots of inventory," Pregill said. "We've got lots of stuff to sell, so if anyone wants to go shopping it's a good time to go."

Her association is considering a promotional campaign aimed at local residents that would say something like "it's OK to go out and shop," she said.

Pregill made her comments at a Hawaii Tourism Authority meeting yesterday to gather an update on the visitor industry before the state Legislature's special session next week.

Local attractions were not doing very well before Sept. 11, with most not meeting their expectations, said Lori Lum, executive director of the Hawaii Attractions Association. Since the attacks, things have gotten worse.

Attendance is off by 15 percent to as much as 60 percent from this time last year and most operators expect the numbers to stay low at least through the rest of this year and possibly into the first quarter of 2002, Lum said.

Kamaaina promotions have worked very well, but local residents do not get out much during the work week, Lum said.

Business surges as much as 20 percent on weekends when local residents take advantage of low prices for dinner cruises, theme parks and so on, she said.

Terry O'Halloran, an Atlantis Adventures executive whose business includes submarine rides and Sea Life Park, spoke on behalf of the Ocean Cruise Industry Association, whose members offer offshore activities.

A state study had shown that the industry employed 7,000 people and had revenues of $800 million a year prior to Sept. 11, he said.

"Probably we've let go 30 percent of our work force," he said, and business is down 25 percent to 50 percent.

O'Halloran was at the Tourism Authority meeting to support legislative measures he said would help recovery.

In particular, he said, the local cruise business would like a temporary waiver of fees it must pay to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Seiji Naya, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, repeated estimates that his economists have made lately about losses of jobs and tax revenues in the wake of the September disaster.

If visitor traffic is down 13 percent overall for 2001, the gross state product will be down $471 million and Hawaii will have lost more than 10,800 jobs, Naya said.

If visitor traffic ends the year 20 percent lower than last year, the gross state product will be down $725 million and nearly 16,700 jobs will be lost.

In the worst-case scenario his department looked at, a 30 percent decline in tourist numbers for the year would cause gross state product to be down by more than $1 billion and more than 25,000 jobs to be lost.

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