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.