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Officials fear Sandy's blow to tourism goals

By Allison Schaefers

LAST UPDATED: 01:40 a.m. HST, Oct 31, 2012

Superstorm Sandy could blow performance off course for the state's visitor industry.

Before Sandy the state had set a goal to finish 2012 with a record 7.9 million visitors and $13.9 billion in visitor spending.

"Right now our pace is looking to be pretty close in line with the targets that we set," said David Uchi­yama, the Hawaii Tourism Authority's vice president of brand management. "Of course, unexpected circumstances like what Sandy has brought into the picture could have an impact."

On Tuesday, Hawaiian Airlines canceled its 294-seat flight between New York and Hono­lulu for the third consecutive day and an additional flight to accommodate passengers from previously grounded flights. United Airlines also canceled its 256-seat flights between Hono­lulu and Newark and Hono­lulu and Dulles again. Since Saturday, Sandy has grounded 17,062 flights throughout North America, according to Flightstats.com.

While United has not updated its flight status, Hawaiian said it would resume its scheduled service today if weather permits and John F. Kennedy International Airport reopens as planned. The carrier also plans to add an additional flight to New York on Thursday, returning Friday.

"About 650 people were affected by our canceled flights over the past three days," said airline spokes­woman Ann Botticelli. "Some people were already accommodated on flights to the West Coast. We expect to accommodate the rest of them by the end of this week."

Getting flights back on track is important to Hawaii's visitor industry. The U.S. East is the state's second-largest visitor market behind the U.S. West. During the first nine months of the year, 1.3 million U.S. East visitors came to Hawaii and spent $2.6 billion.

"It's too soon to tell how much of an impact that Sandy will have," said Keith Vieira of Starwood Hotels & Resorts in Hawaii. "Every hotel has had some cancellations and some guests who have extended their stays."

Sandy stranded about 200 guests at Outrigger Hotels & Resorts throughout the islands, said Barry Wallace, executive vice president of hospitality services for Outrigger Enterprises Group. "We're giving them special consideration," he said. "We don't want their last memory of Hawaii to be a bad one."

Storm creates obstacles as election day nears

Hurricane Sandy spurred Maryland to suspend its early-voting program for a second day Tuesday and forced some early-voting sites to close in battleground states like North Caro­lina and Virginia. But the bigger question that many state and county elections officials in storm-battered states were asking themselves was how to get ready for election day next week.

The obstacles are formidable. More than 8.2 million households were without power, a potential problem in an age when the voting, which once consisted of stuffing paper ballots into boxes, is now electronic.

Roads were impassible in some states, and mass transportation was hobbled in others. Postal disruptions threatened to slow delivery of absentee ballots to election boards.

There are legal ways to change the date of a presidential election, said Jerry H. Goldfeder, a prominent election lawyer and special counsel at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan.

One would require Congress to choose a new date. But there is also a federal law that gives states the opportunity to try again if they fail to choose electors on election day.

"Legally it's simple," Goldfeder said, "but historically, politically and logistically, it would be a highly extraordinary and unique event in American history."

For now, most election officials say they believe that they will be ready for voting Tuesday.

But some sites may have to be moved in New York, which was battered by the storm.

Obama and Romney suspend campaigns

KETTERING, Ohio » With Sandy spreading more storm havoc, the two presidential contenders stepped back Tuesday from overt politicking as their tight race assumed an odd limbo just a week before election day.

President Barack Obama remained at the White House, overseeing federal emergency efforts and receiving welcome praise from New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie, who has been one of Mitt Romney's highest-profile surrogates. Obama announced he would tour battered New Jersey with Christie today, skipping a pair of campaign rallies.

The GOP nominee helped gather donations at an Ohio campaign stop hastily re-branded as a relief effort, then flew to Florida, where he planned to resume full-time campaigning today.


Star-Advertiser news services


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MalamaKaAina wrote:
Eliminate the Hawaii Tourism Authority and use all those millions of taxpayer dollars to fix our roads, sewers, and bridges!
on October 31,2012 | 01:56AM
Wazdat wrote:
Hawaii sure has become GREEDY.
on October 31,2012 | 03:12AM
tiki886 wrote:
Everyone is concerned about how we are going to pay our bills and meet payroll. But I forgot, in your world, everyone who makes more than you is "greedy".
on October 31,2012 | 04:54AM
Wazdat wrote:
When is enough enough
on October 31,2012 | 04:57AM
AmbienDaze wrote:
enough and just a little bit more
on October 31,2012 | 07:02AM
tiki886 wrote:
It's certainly not for you or the government to make that determination now is it? Otherwise I'd have to call you comrade.
on October 31,2012 | 07:37AM
allie wrote:
sorry..even my pizza cashier job depends on tourism. Nothing to do with greed..it is just survival!
on October 31,2012 | 10:06AM
allie wrote:
I am surpised this story did not appear last week. I realized the threat at least a week ago!
on October 31,2012 | 10:04AM
donthigpen wrote:
This is typical of the self-centered attitude of state/county officials and many citizens being worried about tourist $$ instead of showing concern for the people devastated by Sandy. I have yet to hear of any charity organizations stepping forward here to support the victims.
on October 31,2012 | 10:51AM
kennie1933 wrote:
HTA should just tell nature to STOP making disasters like the Japan earthquake and tsunami and Superstorm Sandy so we can pull in those tourist dollars! What's more important, people's lives and property or tourist dollars?
on October 31,2012 | 11:01AM
inverse wrote:
This article has a bad tone and the people they interview as nothing more than money grubbers who look at visitors as nothing more than dollar signs. Yes, initial visitor traffic from the East Coast will be down HOWEVER, the tragedy of the East coast will be be a BONUS to Hawaii in the long run because visitors who planned on vacationing in the East coast now must make alternative arrangements and Hawaii will be a frontrunner for people who have to make alternative arrangements to their cancelled East coast vacations. This is not a nice thing to say but true; besides natural disasters in other tourist destinations in the mainland US, an increase in terrorism and hate of Americans by others in the world INCREASES Hawaii's tourism numbers since Hawaii is about as "exotic" a vacation as American or other close American allies can take yet still be relatively safe.
on October 31,2012 | 12:11PM
lotusroot wrote:
we need to count our blessings that we have been blessed here in hawaii and have missed the devastation that has hit the east coast. the rich and greedy hotel owners who have enjoyed extremely high occupancies and profits this season should be pooling their money and sending it to the red cross to help those communities in need. amen
on October 31,2012 | 08:50PM
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