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200 to lose jobs after Kona Village shuts

By Gene Park

LAST UPDATED: 3:20 p.m. HST, Mar 19, 2011

After more than 45 years, the Kona Village Resort on the Big Island will be closing its doors, its future uncertain.

The 82-acre property suffered extensive damage due to last week's tsunami from Japan's magnitude-9.0 earthquake.

More than 200 employees will be laid off. All will be paid through April 3, and their medical benefits will last until the end of April, said Patrick Fitzgerald, president and chief executive officer of the resort.

"It was a very hard decision to let the Kona Village staff go; they're a very special group of people," he said. "They've done an amazing job for the past 45 years. We've had some staff who's been there for more than 40 years."

Fitzgerald said because insurance adjusters had not yet sent building specialists to assess the damage, he could not provide a damage estimate.

More than 20 hale, the resort's thatched-roof bungalow accommodations, sustained significant structural damage. The property has about 125 units, and most were not damaged.

However, the property's infrastructure had significant damage.

"This resort was built in 1965," Fitzgerald said. "We have gas lines, water lines, electrical lines and waste-water lines that were ripped up."

Other damaged areas include the Hale Moana and Hale Samoa restaurants, Hale Hoo­mau, the Shipwreck and Talk Story bars, reception and main office, as well as the Ocean Activity Center.

The company has contacted neighboring resorts and the state Workforce Development Division for assistance with transition and job placement for the employees.

Fitzgerald said the company could not promise the workers employment if the resort opens again.

"I don't want to give any kind of time frame for them to try and hold onto," he said. "For now we'll deal with that in the future, not that we would say no to them if they wanted to work again."

All guests with current reservations on hold are being contacted and will receive a full refund of any deposits made, the company said in a news release.

State tourism officials are bracing for the impacts of the Japanese disaster. Properties and airlines are already reporting a drop in passengers and bookings.

The Four Seasons Hua­la­lai, of which Fitzgerald is also president, is closed until April 30. The property also sustained damage from the tsunami surge.

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