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    NO SAFE HARBOR: A catamaran damaged when the tsunami hit Oahu lay submerged in waters of Keehi Lagoon later that week.
    ALII DRIVE: Kailua-Kona was hard hit by the surge. Businesses in West Hawaii suffered $13.5 million in damage.
    WATERY DEBRIS: Divers helped recover what was left of a home that was swept into Kealakekua Bay when the tsunami struck the Kona Coast.
    DEATH TOLL: An estimated 110,000 albatross chicks and 1,000 adult birds were killed when the tsunami washed over Midway Atoll.
    STILL CLOSED: The Kona Village Resort remains shuttered after sustaining an estimated $40 million in damage. Repairs have not yet begun.
    Four Seasons Hualalai, above, have been restored.
    Candi Hill watches security camera footage taken last year when waves swept through her store, Beaches Resort Wear at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel.

George Applegate, executive director of the Big Island Visitors Bureau, prepared for the worst last year as waves from the March 11 tsunami swept ashore.

Horrifying real-time images of the Japan devastation mingled in Applegate’s mind with memories of the 1960 tsunami, which killed 61 people and devastated downtown Hilo.

"I went through the 1960 tsunami," Applegate said. "I still remember going with my cousin in the boat to pick up the bodies. I was at my auntie’s house. She lost everything and there was no insurance. I was only 13, but I won’t ever forget it."

This time, projections of tourism and other economic losses were much more dire than the reality. Still, the natural disaster in Japan and in Hawaii left an indelible impression on individuals and businesses across the state.

The tsunami caused no deaths in Hawaii, but its many surges caused tens of millions of dollars in damage across Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii island, which sustained more than half of the losses.

Calculated public and private losses across the state totaled $30.6 million, according to Shelly Ku­ni­shige, state civil defense spokeswoman. While total damage may rise by another $40 million once insurers estimate losses at the still-shuttered Kona Village Resort, that tally is significantly less than initial state estimates.

Even the tourism downturn, which was not included in the civil defense total, was not as bad as expected, said Mike McCartney, Hawaii Tourism Authority president and CEO.

Certainly, last year’s tsunami caused thousands of trip cancellations from Japan, the state’s largest international market. Safety concerns and fear about Hawaii’s proximity to Japan’s malfunctioning nuclear reactors slowed domestic travel from the mainland. Arrivals from China and Korea, which are dependent upon flight connections in Japan, dropped. Trip cancellations to Japan by Hawaii residents also hurt outbound sellers.

"We were terrified of the possibilities," McCartney said. But the 45 percent tsunami-related drop in arrivals that Hawaii tourism officials had projected for 2011 never materialized. Japan arrivals only fell 5.1 percent in 2011 and spending rose by 8.2 percent, McCartney said.

While Hawaiian Airlines initially experienced a "very sharp downturn" from Japan, business came back within a few months, said Mark Dunkerley, the airline’s president and CEO. The carrier’s decision to keep the Haneda service that it introduced 18 months ago and launch Osaka service last July garnered an "enthusiastic response," Dunkerley said.

"The Japanese market is still doing very well," he said, adding that Hawaiian Airlines will begin service to Fukuoka in April.

HTA has pushed this year’s spending target for Japan up by 13.9 percent to $2.3 billion and arrivals to 1.3 million, a 12.4 percent increase, McCartney said. The agency also wants to continue the diversification strategy that has helped it grow tourism outside of Japan, he said.

Public and private repairs across the state also are aiding the recovery. Business has surpassed pre-tsunami levels for the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, which introduced millions of dollars of improvements at its reopening six weeks after the tsunami. The conclusion of repairs at the Courtyard Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel also brought substantial returns, said Deanna Isbister, the hotel’s director of sales.

Patrick Fitzgerald, president and CEO of the Four Seasons Hualalai Resort and Kona Village Resort, said he has met with insurers several times in the past 90 days.

"We’ve made some progress, but nothing is conclusive," Fitzgerald said.

Repairs and renovations could bring reinvestment in Kona Village to more than $70 million, he said.

"That would be a great stimulus for our economy," Fitzgerald said. "Initially, it would bring jobs to the construction trades. Once we got it reopened, we would hire a bunch of people."

The closure of the circa-1965 resort cost more than 200 employees jobs at a time when one in 10 Hawaii island residents already were struggling to find work. Some were hired by the Four Seasons, which kept staff employed during its temporary closure and added 65 jobs after reopening.

Other recovery efforts are under way across the state. More than 60 tsunami-related projects are eligible for a combined $5.4 million in disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency Public Assistance program, which pays for repairs at public facilities and emergency response costs, Kunishige said.

It was announced earlier last week that Kailua-Kona Wharf Small Boat Harbor will receive nearly $1.1 million from FEMA to fix tsunami-related damage. More than $1.4 million in FEMA funds also will shore up damage to Piers 700 and 800 of the Keehi Small Boat Harbor on Oahu. Design plans and environmental impact analyses are in the works for Hawaii’s small boat harbors that were damaged by the tsunami, Kunishige said.

The Small Business Administration also approved 16 loans statewide totaling $1.04 million for businesses and $196,400 for homeowners/renters, Kunishige said.

While Hawaii did not qualify for FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program, state civil defense helped homeowners in Napoopoo by arranging disposal of tsunami debris, she said.

At least seven Hawaii island homes were damaged by the tsunami and one was swept away. Kunishige said the state has attempted to match these homeowners with faith-based or community organizations.

McCartney, whose grandparents were from Japan, said going through last year’s tragedy together strengthened and redefined the relationship between Hawaii and its visitors from Japan for years to come.

"Our recovery wasn’t just about arrivals and expenditures and filling airplane seats and hotel rooms. We knew that this was about a relationship that goes back centuries," he said. "The people of Hawaii and Japan are one. We are more than a destination for them."

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