Travel Weekly's Hawaii E-Letter: January 21, 2002 January 21, 2002 Share 1 -- GOV. BEN CAYETANO and local business people who want a Hawaii exemption from the federal Passenger Services Act, so foreign-flag ships touring the islands can bypass a foreign port during their cruises here, are getting a cold reception from the one man who could make it happen. Sen. Daniel Inouye (D.-Hawaii), the state's most powerful federally elected official, said he would support such an exemption only if the foreign-flag ships benefiting from the exemption would hire American crew and pay U.S. taxes -- a scenario about as likely as a cold day in Hawaii. NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE, which sails Hawaii on regular weekly cruise with the Norwegian Star and must sail 18 hours to Fanning Island in the Republic of Kiribati to satisfy the act, seems indifferent. "We're not seeking it, and we're already able to offer Hawaii cruising without the exemption," said NCL president Colin Veitch. "There are strong interests against any changes, and we haven't even looked at that seriously."VISITOR NUMBERS from the mainland to Hawaii were down an average 4.8% for the first 15 days of January compared with the same period last year, according to the Hawaii Dept. of Business Economic Development and Tourism. By the end of the first quarter, visitor numbers "will be flat or exceeding prior year levels," predicted Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau president Tony Vericella during a press briefing on the state of tourism in Hawaii. "If you look at the consumer behavior patterns in the U.S., people are still reluctant to travel internationally, but they are gravitating to Hawaii," he said.THE HAWAII CONVENTION CENTER has 28 "offshore" conventions booked for this year with 94,300 attendees expected and $280 million in spending projected, according to the HVCB. That's a big step up from last year when 23 conventions brought in just 50,000 attendees. Meetings business in Hawaii "just stopped" immediately after Sept. 11, said Sandra Moreno, vice president of meetings, conventions, and incentives for the HVCB. Moreno added that the meetings and conventions market here might take a full year to recover. Although she didn't have figures, the hotel meetings market generally mirrored the sour convention market in 2001, said Moreno.SHARE THE ALOHA, DUDE. Departing visitors at some hotels in the state will get "Live Aloha" bumper stickers along with a thank-you note from Gov. Ben Cayetano and a card describing the many meanings of Aloha, courtesy of the HVCB. The bureau has made up 500,000 of the packages and plans to distribute them indefinitely. In addition to hello and goodbye, "Aloha means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no expectation of anything in return," according to the card.