Tourism Hit Hard
While the tourism industry in 2001 wasn’t expecting to hit the nearly 7 million visitors of the previous year, neither did executives imagine a projected 7 percent to 8 percent decrease in numbers for the year, plus a couple of days of disrupted airline service.
When suicide bombers drove jumbo jets through the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, they also maimed Hawaii’s main industry. And the domino effects led Gov. Benjamin Cayetano to tell the nation that the attacks could cost Hawaii up to $1 billion in 2001.
A $20 million dollar marketing plan emphasizing the healing, rejuvenating, relaxing qualities of Hawaii, aimed at niche travelers.
Cayetano and a delegation from Hawaii traveled to Japan in October to extend a personal invitation to that all-important market.
In New York, Cayetano announced that 600 recovery workers would come to Hawaii in December on vacation. Hawaiian Airlines donated two charter flights.
Another 600 travel packages will be made available to New York recovery workers throughout 2002, through donations from Hawaii’s tourism industry.
Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau made a $125,000 donation to relief agencies in New York.
Visitor arrivals, particularly domestic arrivals, are inching back up from their precipitous dive immediately after Sept. 11.
Local executive Rick Humphries rolled up his sleeves and jumped in to help the Hawaii Tourism Authority when former Executive Director Bob Fishman was called up for military duty. Humphries will be paid $1 a year.
Matson Navigation Co. became the first nontourism-industry company to announce aid for the industry in November when it said it would donate 120 vacations for Northern and Southern California residents.
Chairman, Hawaii Tourism Authority
The Hawaii Tourism Authority was created in 1999 to oversee the state’s tourism industry, with an annual budget of $60 million funded by the state’s hotel room tax. Roy Tokujo has been on the authority since its inception and chaired the organization for the tumultuous 2001 year. Tokujo does have tourism-related jobs that pay him. He is the managing partner for Maui Myth & Magic Theatre’s Ulalena show, and he is a managing partner of Ko Olina Marketing & Licensing LLC. He talks about the challenges ahead for the all-important industry in the wake of Sept. 11.
The impact on Tokujo’s businesses
We had already planned for a slowdown in the last half of this year, so we were cutting our costs and our show times by 20 percent, which meant since we were running 10 shows a week, that we were going to run eight shows a week. When this thing happened, we had to immediately cut another three shows, which meant that we were now running at 50 percent from what we were at the beginning of the year.
What kamaaina can do to help
What residents can do, and they are doing it, I think, is they’re going out and they’re supporting the local businesses that deal with tourism. They’re taking local vacations. I take my family on local vacations; go to the neighbor islands. I think the local businesses really do need a lot of help. The local retailers, stores and so forth, they also need help. I think there’s going to be a lot of kamaaina specials and they should take advantage of those kamaaina specials.
The majority of businesses in tourism are small businesses, meaning less than 10 to 15 employees. That’s the bulk of our industry. It’s not the hotels. It’s not the airlines. Eighty percent, 90 percent of our business is all little businesses. But that’s what provides the experience, what provides the character that makes us special is because those small businesses make it that way. So it’s in our best interest that we try to keep small businesses alive and striving.
We all can make a difference if we all just say, “I’m willing to sacrifice some time, some effort, whatever it is to help the cause to make Hawaii a better place to live.” Because you know the quality of life is really what we’re all trying to preserve here and make it a better quality of life, and I’ve always said that Hawaii is a great place to visit because, first and foremost, it’s a great place to live, and we’ve got to continue to make it the greatest place to live on the Earth. Then that’s when people will come.
We overcome our fear of war by our patriotic emotion and in that sense, the traveling to support the U.S. economy and the United States as a whole bodes well for us because we can say, “Come to Hawaii, the 50th state.” You know people forget that we’re the 50th state, that we’re part of the United States. “Visit America’s hidden treasure, which is the 50th state of Hawaii” and I think that kind of message will have a great appeal to a lot of Americans, and I think it will help us in terms of getting more than our fair share of people to come to Hawaii.