Hawaii suppliers report dismal numbers to HTA

HONOLULU -- Land operators reported the extent of their suffering since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to the Hawaii Tourism Authority this week.

Terry O'Halloran, president of the Ocean Tourism Coalition, which represents operators offering beach and ocean tours, told the HTA that before Sept. 11 his members enjoyed an $800 million a year industry that employed 7,000 employees.

"Now we've lost at least 30% of our work force and business is off from 24% to 50%," said O'Halloran, who also is president of Navatek Cruises. "Some of these businesses are going to go out of business and they won't come back because of the high cost of state regulations."

Lori Lum, president of the Hawaii Attractions Association, which represents 20 attractions around the state, said business is off between 15% and 60%.

"Those who have a higher percentage of Japanese visitors are hurting the most," said Lum.

However, Lum warned the industry not to cut too much of its staff, or customer service will suffer.

"Hawaii always has had a high rate of visitor satisfaction, but we're concerned," said Lum. "You may end up with a situation where you have one cocktail waitress to serve a huge crowd and we'd hate to have something like that where you sacrifice service."

Carol Pregill, executive director of the retail merchants of Hawaii, said business at retail outlets is down 25% to 60%.

"The upscale business is doing horribly," said Pregill.

A spokeswoman for Aloha Airlines, who addressed the HTA, said interisland traffic is down 25% to 30% and traffic to U.S. mainland destinations is down 10%.

"Advanced bookings are coming in slow and we are expecting our insurance premiums, which come up for renewal in the fourth quarter, to quadruple," the spokeswoman said.

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