US arrivals strong to quake-hit hawaii

Travel from the mainland United States to the Hawaiian Islands returned to normal just one day after the October 15 earthquake and remains on pace for another excellent year. The latest figures released by the Hawaii State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) show that domestic passenger arrivals statewide were up 2.6 percent Monday, 9.7 percent on Tuesday, and 13.2 percent on Wednesday as compared to the same period last year.

Overall, month-to-date arrivals for October are at 320,364, up nearly one percent over 2005.

Some flights to the islands were cancelled on Sunday and a portion of the increase in passengers may be attributed to people who rebooked.

“The numbers are very good and are a positive indication that people are sticking to their plans to visit our islands,” said Marsha Wienert, State of Hawaii tourism liaison.

Wienert’s office has been collaborating with the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) and the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) in getting out news of Hawaii’s speedy recovery to consumers across the United States.


John Monahan, HVCB’s president and CEO, commented, “We’ve been communicating with travel trade professionals and the media that there is relatively little damage that in any way affects our tourism plant and the enjoyment of visitors.”

“Of Hawaii’s 72,000 guest rooms for visitors, only about 100 or so are out of commission,” said Monahan. “The visitor infrastructure on Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, and Maui was really not damaged at all by the quake. The damage remains limited to the Big Island, which was closest to the epicenter. However, even on that island, the effects are isolated.”

Big Island hotels are all open and busy. The town of Kona is bustling and this weekend will host one of the premiere sporting events of the year—the Ironman World Championship.

“The fact that this major, high profile sporting event is taking place within a week of the earthquake is further indication that in general the Big Island is returning to normal,” said Monahan.

Thousands of competitors from 49 countries and 50 states have made the pilgrimage to the Big Island for the October 21 race. It is the defining event of the Ironman series and considered one of the toughest challenges with its 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run.

Hawaii’s Governor Linda Lingle has supported the tourism industry in its recovery and took the precautionary step on Sunday of signing an emergency declaration that would allow the state the ability to deal with the unknown affects of the earthquake and the ability to seek federal assistance.

President Bush responded with a declaration on Tuesday that provides for the removal of debris and opens the door for financial assistance to repair damage that may have occurred to homes, businesses, schools and roads pending field investigations by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“While our tourism industry remains intact, this was a prudent move to ensure that all of Hawaii can receive the support of the federal government to whatever degree it becomes necessary,” said Wienert.