HONOLULU Hawaii held its breath as war drew near, bracing for
the uncertainty of how hard the state’s largest and most vulnerable
industry might be hit.
“We’ve got scenarios from a little blip to a big blip,” said
David Carey, chief executive officer of Outrigger Enterprises. “We
can decide all day what we think is right, but ultimately it’s
hundreds of conversations over the kitchen table and the water
cooler and the coffee shop that’s going to determine people’s
The Hawaii Tourism Authority last week was preparing to shift
from a long-term marketing strategy to a short-term program focused
on generating immediate business.
If necessary, said Frank Haas, the authority’s vice president
for tourism marketing, the authority might ask the legislature to
release some of the $8 million in the tourism special fund for use
in emergency marketing efforts.
The authority established a crisis communication center in the
Hawaii Convention Center, with telephone numbers to be listed on
the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau Web site,
Haas also said the authority is hoping a delegation of
high-ranking business executives and government officials would
travel to Japan within two weeks of war to assure the Japanese that
it is safe to travel, trying to assuage the kind of fears that kept
them away during the 1991 Gulf War.
Already the fear of war has hurt Hawaii’s tourism. The state
Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism recently
revised its tourism forecast downward. After a 13 percent increase
in January, passenger counts dwindled to a decline of 0.3 percent
during the first two weeks of March. Declines came mostly from the
mainland, said Eugene Tian, the department’s economist.
Outrigger’s Carey estimated the numbers could sink as much as 25
percent below normal levels for this time of year, depending on how
long a war lasts and whether terrorist acts occur.
Meanwhile, Gov. Linda Lingle’s administration has held Hawaii’s
threat level at what officials called “Blue Plus,” the federal
government’s Blue, or guarded, plus additional measures.
Last week the country went to Orange, or high, alert, but there
were no credible, specific threats targeting the islands, said Maj.
Charles Anthony, spokesman for the state Department of Defense.
He added that facilities under federal jurisdiction the airports
and ports, for example are at the national level.
“It can’t be a bad thing,” Haas said about the unchanged threat
But, “we’re careful not to over-promise on it, because you don’t
know what it will be a week or two weeks from now.”
Many executives said a quick and decisive war could release
pent-up demand and bring a strong summer, but terrorist activity
could frighten even willing travelers into staying home.
“We’ll know in about two weeks what’s going to happen,” Carey