Lingle’s Japan trip
set for July

Gov. Linda Lingle has decided against an immediate post-war trip to Japan to promote Hawaii tourism, and plans to hold off visiting the country until a July trip, she said yesterday.

State of Hawaii Previously, the state had a plan that called for Lingle and a group of government officials and business representatives to hold high-level meetings with Japanese officials within weeks of the end of the war in Iraq. A press conference was to be held to say that Hawaii tourism had been unchanged by the war, and was "open for business."

Instead, Lingle said she plans to go to Japan in July on a previously scheduled "Ohana Mission," along with county mayors, a congressional delegation and business leaders. The Ohana missions have been a regular event every other year since 1997.

State tourism officials have been receiving advice on the timing of a trip from tourism industry leaders in Japan, who have been saying that a delegation to Japan immediately following the war would not benefit Hawaii tourism, said Tony Vericella, president and chief executive of the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau.

The media in Japan have been bombarding people with information about world events, and part of the concern is that Hawaii would add to that with a delegation right now, Vericella said.

The recommendation of Japanese tourism leaders is "not dwelling on the war and all that uncertainty that's been clouding the people in Japan every day in terms of the economy, the war, terrorism, SARS, the North Korea situation," Vericella said. "People aren't necessarily wanting to be reminded of that.

"They probably need a little time to get through all this and to mentally recover."

A month after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, then-Gov. Ben Cayetano and former governors John Waihee and George Ariyoshi went to Japan to reassure tourists.

This time, America has not been attacked during the war with Iraq, and that poses a different circumstance, Vericella said.

Meanwhile, the visitors bureau is planning other initiatives to promote Hawaii to Japan, including a newspaper advertising campaign that starts May 6.

The bureau stopped advertising the state when the war started last month.

Lenny Klompus, Lingle's senior communications adviser, said the governor's specific plans for the trip are not set in stone. "She wants to do what will be most effective," said Klompus.

The House Select Subcommittee on War Preparedness has delayed a trip to Asia to promote Hawaii tourism, because of fears of the risk of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

Office of the Governor

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