Officials react to news of Pleasant's cruise foray

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HONOLULU -- News that Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays will begin selling Norwegian Cruise Line's Hawaii cruises on the Norwegian Star next spring spurred reaction from the travel industry here. Pleasant is Hawaii's largest U.S. wholesaler, bringing 400,000 to 450,000 passengers here each year. Sentiment is split over whether cruises represent competition to hotels.

"Naturally, we're selfish and we'd like 100% of Pleasant's attention and focus," said Kelvin Bloom, Aston Hotels' executive vice president in Hawaii. "But we can understand, from a business perspective, its desire to diversify."

Rob Solomon, Outrigger Hotels & Resorts senior vice president of sales and marketing, echoed that sentiment. "It makes sense all around because of the operator's ability to sell the whole product, pre- and post-cruise," he said. "On one hand, you hate for anyone to lose focus on your product, but if anyone is going to sell a cruise, it should be Pleasant. "We'd rather see them sell cruises in Hawaii than anywhere else. It takes more business from the Caribbean."

Shari Chang, senior vice president of Aloha Airlines and a member of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said, "I say go for it. "It's another way to bring people to Hawaii and we're not discouraging that," Chang said. "What to me is interesting is that its biggest customer base is the East Coast, so it may be bringing in people we are not reaching. It opens up a good market for us -- one that we have not been able to tap that well."

Hawaii Tourism Authority chief executive officer Bob Fishman said the move is likely to make some in the hotel industry edgy, but it's a good move for the industry in general. "For some hotels to see more competition during this time and this crisis, I could understand their stress ... but it really reflects added demand for Hawaii, and that is good for us," he said. Fishman said the growth of the cruise industry in Hawaii is "really a growth in the demand for Hawaii as a destination."

Rodahl Leong-Lyons, director of sales at Hyatt Regency Waikiki, said she is looking forward to getting business from Pleasant in the pre- and post-cruise categories. "Pleasant has more land product than NCL [carries with its cruises], so it can book more people on those tours," Leong-Lyons said.

"As a destination, Hawaii hasn't been able to command much of a market share in the pre- and post-cruise areas because people use all their time and money on the cruise," she noted. "But if anyone can get people to stay before or after a cruise, it's Pleasant."

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