Hawaii arrival numbers tumble

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HONOLULU -- War apparently has begun to take its toll on Hawaii's visitor numbers, and tourism-related businesses are bracing for the impact.

Total passenger arrivals declined between 12% and 21.9% over the weekend, according to the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

International arrivals tumbled 30% compared with previous-year levels, and visitors from the mainland -- which previously had helped offset weak international numbers -- also began to erode.

At a press conference to boost confidence yesterday, Theodore Liu, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, encouraged businesses to "be vigilant and prepared but not to overreact."

He said that while war may deter first-time travelers, repeat visitors recognize the "safety and comfort" of Hawaii as a destination.

And when the Iraq war ends, there will be an opportunity to capture return travelers "who are also high-spending travelers."

Despite Lui's message that Hawaii will survive economically, he added that this assessment depends on the length and severity of the war.

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