Industry News 9-28-2007

*Superferry Slowdown
*ASTA Comments on Carnival Commissions
*Green Caribbean Conference
*and more...

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Legal challenges and protests are holding
up operations for the Hawaii Superferry.
Superferry Slowdown

Protests and legal challenges have roiled the waters for the Hawaii Superferry. The 866-passenger vessel, designed to carry visitors, residents and cars between the islands of Oahu, Maui and Kauai, started service on Aug. 26. It voluntarily suspended operations two days later when dozens of protesters on surfboards, canoes and kayaks blocked the vessel’s entry into Nawiliwili Harbor on Kauai.

Opponents of the operation have voiced concern over the impact that the high-speed four-story Superferry could have on Hawaii’s natural resources. Although the state waived the need for an environmental impact statement in 2005 and spent more than $40 million to improve harbors in anticipation of the service, the State Supreme Court ruled in August that such a review was necessary after all. The $95 million ferry sat idle in Honolulu as judges on Maui and Kauai weighed whether or not it can operate while the environmental review takes place.

The ferry won a major victory in early September when a Kauai judge denied a motion for a temporary restraining order, allowing the vessel to return to the Garden Isle beginning Sept. 26. The Coast Guard announced new security measures, while Hawaii governor Linda Lingle a staunch supporter of the Superferry warned that protestors will be arrested if they cross security lines at Nawiliwili Harbor.

“The governor, the U.S. Coast Guard and various state and county agencies have provided Hawaii Superferry with assurances regarding the safety of our passengers, employees and the members of the community,” said Hawaii Superferry president John Garibaldi. “We look forward to providing a safe and reliable interisland ferry service.”

Meanwhile, the fate of the ferry’s Maui route remained uncertain at press time. Service between Oahu and Kahului Harbor is on hold indefinitely while a Maui Circuit Court judge decides if the ferry can run during the environmental assessment.

The uncertainty of the Maui route prompted Garibaldi to say that he needs to have “actionable information within four to six weeks in order for us to determine whether or not we can continue to operate.”

“We’ve had discussions with a variety of parties, including members of the state Senate, about our inability to sustain operations indefinitely without revenue,” said Garibaldi.

A second Superferry is under construction in Alabama and is scheduled for service in 2009.

ASTA Comments on Carnival Commissions

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has expressed disappointment in the decision by Carnival Corp. to no longer pay commissions to U.S. and Canadian travel agents on the airline portion of agency sales. The decision is effective for new bookings made on or after Oct. 15.

In a statement, ASTA said: “ASTA is obviously disappointed in the announcement by Carnival Corp. that its related cruise lines will cease paying commission on cruise-related air services booked through Carnival. Although this policy change by Carnival Corp. does not represent a financial disaster for our members, it does strike at their potential earnings which can only be viewed as a negative factor in our relationships. Furthermore, it represents a disservice to our clients in booking Carnival’s products and is likely to create an inconvenience to many cruise passengers. Additionally, it will further erode the usefulness of the Carnival air-cruise package service by creating a further disincentive for agents to book it and by diminishing the usefulness of the Carnival product in the eyes of many consumers. Leisure-focused agents who do not sell air will be forced to find work-arounds and further complications may be introduced into travel agency fee structures.”

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Al Gore will speak in the
Turks & Caicos.
Green Caribbean Conference

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore will speak at Turks & Caicos’ Environmental Conference on Nov. 18-20 in Providenciales. Gore will share his theme of “Thinking Green: Economic Strategy for the 21st Century,” arguing that physical changes on our planet will influence the global economy. The conference will serve as a culmination of the government’s efforts to commemorate their Year of the Environment’s two key objectives: raise the level of environmental consciousness in the country and develop public and private partnership arrangements in managing the environment.

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