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Officials fear Sandy's blow to tourism goals

By Allison Schaefers

POSTED:
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.

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Star-Advertiser news services






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