Businesses in Hawaii
are split on
outlook for state

A state economist calls the
confidence survey
"less than positive"

By Russ Lynch

About half of the owners or managers in a new survey of Hawaii businesses expect a lower level of economic activity in Hawaii during the next 12 months, Paul Brewbaker, senior vice president and chief economist at Bank of Hawaii, said today.

Reporting on the bank's half-yearly business confidence poll, Brewbaker said 48.5 percent of the 425 business respondents said they expect the Hawaii economy to be the same or better in the next 12 months, while 51.5 percent said they expect negative growth.

Brewbaker called that result a "less than positive" outlook. Asked about their expectations for the own sales in the coming year, 33.5 percent said they anticipate higher sales and 29.6 percent expected lower sales. That was about an even split, given the survey's plus or minus 4.7 percentage point margin for error.

"The perceptions of business owners continue to fit the pattern we have seen historically," he said. "Businesses tend to be more optimistic about the prospects for their own firms than the overall economy."

But the economist said there is some real resilience in Hawaii, such as in the domestic-tourism segment, which accounted for 4.2 million of last year's 6.3 million visitors to the islands. The total was down only 5.1 percent from 2000, despite the tourism slump that followed the events of Sept. 11, he said.

International travel, such as the important Japan segment, is recovering more slowly, he said.

"We can expect lingering negative numbers for Hawaii tourism into the second quarter of 2002, capped by a year-end flourish of 20 percent tourism growth in the fourth quarter," he said, citing the bank's own economic analyses as well as a consensus of Hawaii econo- mists.

He said the survey results seem consistent with events following Sept. 11, "the economic impacts of which now appear transitory.

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