Travel Weekly's Hawaii E-Letter: June 25, 2001

VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE: Hawaii's nine harbor pilots are in Alaska this summer, practicing on some of the largest new cruise ships to determine whether they can maneuver the vessels into Kauai's Nawiliwili Harbor, where they are scheduled to call in the autumn. The pilots have twice turned away Celebrity Cruse Line's 91,000-ton Infinity this year for a number of reasons, including bad weather; a port that's too small for a ship its size, and pilots who lack experience on larger ships, according to Hawaii Pilots Association president Dave Lyman. Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Star, Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas and Carnival's Carnival Spirit all plan to make port calls on Kauai in the fall. All are in the 87,000-ton range.

SURPRISED? Join the club. Most of the industry was stunned when news broke on Travel Weekly Crossroads June 20 that the Automobile Club of Southern California had two years ago acquired a majority stake in Pleasant Holidays. The purchase, for an undisclosed amount, includes the tour operations under the Pleasant Holidays brand, including the widely known and popular Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays. Ed Hogan, chairman and chief executive officer of the 42-year-old West Lake Village, Calif., company, said that despite the Auto Club's investment, he still "runs the company and [makes] the decisions." Why the secrecy? "I've always worked like a Swiss banker," Hogan said. "I have confidentiality agreements with almost everyone I deal with." The investment was uncovered when two former candidates for the Auto Club's board of directors reviewed the club's financial statements from 1999 and 2000.

SUNTRIPS is offering a $99 roundtrip air fare for kids ages 2 through 17 from San Francisco to Honolulu or Maui through August. The fare is good on Tuesday and Wednesday departures.

MARRIOTT sold its 356-room Kauai Marriott Resort near Lihue to Hospitality Properties Trust but will retain the management contract, said Stan Brown, vice president of Marriott's pacific island's division. The property's name will not change. Marriott also is in the process of selling its Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort while retaining the management contract. The hotel company's next big move in the state will be on the Kona coast of the Big Island, where Marriott wants to put one of its upscale brand names on a luxury hotel as soon as the opportunity arises, said Brown. In the more affordable category, Marriott plans to put its name on a Courtyard brand hotel on Maui, near the airport, and wants a Courtyard brand hotel on Oahu, said Brown.

THE KEA LANI RESORT on Maui was officially renamed the Fairmont Kea Lani Maui even though word of the name change has been on the street since Fairmont bought the hotel Feb. 1. The hotel is offering a free upgrade on its 413 one-bedroom suites from Aug. 27 through Dec. 20 from a gardenview suite to an oceanview suite or from an oceanview suite to an oceanview deluxe suite.

"PEARL HARBOR," the movie, which has disappointed its investors at the box office, has nonetheless been a boon to Hawaii tourism. Filmed on Oahu last year, the movie helped bring filming revenues to a record $136 million in Hawaii, according to the Hawaii Film Office. The figure includes filming permits for television and movies made in Hawaii and spending related directly to production costs, the office said. The $136 million topped 1999 spending of $98 million. Other movies filmed in Hawaii in 2000 were "To End All Wars," "Windtalkers" and "Jurassic Park III." Films being made this year include "Dragonfly," "Planet of the Apes," "Final Fantasy" and "The X-4 Project," according to the office.

AT THE REAL PEARL HARBOR, meanwhile, Naval memorials are reporting an increase in visitors since the movie came out in late May. While figures for June were not yet available for the most popular site at Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona Memorial, the wait to get in has gone from about two hours to three hours in some cases, said Kathy Billings, superintendent of the memorial, which charges no admission fee. The Arizona gets about 1.5 million visitors a year. It's open from 7:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, and includes a 23-minute documentary and a boat ride out to the sunken vessel. The Battleship Missouri Memorial also has seen a 12% increase in daily visitors since "Pearl Harbor" was released, and its Web site, at www.ussmissouri.com, reported a 300% hike in visitors the first week after the movie came out, said a spokesman. At the USS Bowfin Submarine and Museum, the number of daily visitors has increased from 1,200 to 1,500, said Bob Burt, director of operations.

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