HILO -- The Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corp. opened a gift shop and
Hawaiian craft center here, catering to cruise passengers.
The Mauna Loa Plantation Craft and Gift Center is "right outside
the gates of the harbor," said Gary Carlson, vice president of
retail operations for the nut corporation.
"There will be in excess of 100,000 cruise passengers coming
through here next year, and we plan to capitalize on that," said
According to Hilo harbor master Ian Birnie, 32 foreign ships
will call at Hilo next year. In addition, American Hawaii Cruises'
Independence currently calls once a week.
Late next year, that ship will have a sister calling at Hilo
once a week also, the 1,214-passenger Patriot.
Just five years ago, Hilo had only 11 to 14 cruise ships calling
each year, said Birnie. The gift center is an example of how the
cruise industry is helping the Hawaiian economy, said Carlson.
"One of the strengths of Hawaii tourism has been an increase in
cruise passengers," he said.
The gift shop sells Big Island-produced products such as
macadamia nuts, chocolates, jams, jellies, cookies and wooden
goods, said Carlson. The gift center also has installed a coffee
roaster and is selling Big Island coffee.
The 4,000-square-foot craft center has 20 booths where local
crafts people can display and sell their products.
Carlson said the gift shop and craft center is in the company's
former office and repair shop.
"We opened the shop because we saw the increasing numbers of
cruise passengers and the buying power they bring, and we were in
the right location," said Carlson.