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Shops remain open as visitor industry prepares for storm

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A few Hilo canoe clubs docked on higher ground Monday afternoon as some Big Islanders prepared for Tropical Storm Olivia.

Hurricane Olivia weakened to a tropical storm Monday as it advanced toward the Hawaiian islands but that didn’t stop the state’s visitor industry from unleashing a whirlwind of safety preparations.

Visitor industry members on Hawaii island and Maui, which could start feeling the impacts of the storm today, began prepping on Monday, said Jerry Dolak, president of the Hawaii Hotel &Visitor Industry Security Association.

“They are bringing in outdoor furniture, staging sandbags to protect against water intrusion and erecting storm barriers,” Dolak said.

Dolak said Oahu preparations will begin tonight but aren’t as intense as they are on Hawaii island and Maui where storm barriers are being erected. Still, the storm could bring 50 mph winds, harsh enough to blow around outdoor furniture and cause a freight truck to sway, he said.

Harris Chan, area vice president for Marriott International Hawaii &French Polynesia, said the company is closely monitoring Olivia and has implemented storm preparation protocols.

“The safety of our guests and associates is always a top priority. We have detailed hotel contingency plans, and we take steps throughout to prepare. A few storm preparedness measures include securing outdoor equipment, checking supplies and testing emergency systems,” Chan said.

Dolak said the state’s visitor industry has been “ready to go” since Aug. 24 when Hurricane Lane was heading toward the Hawaiian Islands. His greatest fear is that complacency could weaken those plans.

“We saw people relax after Hurricane Lane got downgraded to a tropical storm. I keep telling everyone that a tropical storm can still be bad,” Dolak said. “You can’t go wrong over-preparing.”

George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, agreed.

“Being prepared and staying safe needs to be everyone’s top priority these next couple of days. Whether Olivia is a hurricane or a tropical storm is irrelevant as the potential for dangerously high winds and torrential rainfall are threats statewide,” Szigeti said. “Until Olivia has passed, stay off the roads and close to your homes, hotels or accommodations and follow the advice of civil defense officials and Hawaii’s news media.”

Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging &Tourism Association said he’s telling members not to let their guard down.

“Each property must have their own plan in place and be prepared to hunker down until an ‘all-clear’ is declared by local emergency management agencies,” Hannemann said.

Hannemann said guests should purchase bottled water and non-perishable food in anticipation that the coming storm could cause businesses and restaurants to close early.

During Hurricane Lane guests were told to stockpile up to 14 days of supplies, but Dolak said a week’s worth should be adequate for this storm, which isn’t expected to cause as many business closures or power outrages.

Barbara Campbell, vice president of retail leasing for Outrigger Enterprises, which has 175 retail businesses throughout Waikiki, said the company is advising businesses that “unless conditions change, we would like you to stay open.”

Campbell said widespread business closures accompanied Hurricane Lane because of the anticipated intensity of the storm as well as the city bus shutdown, which made it hard for workers to get to their jobs.

“We want our guests to stay in during the bad weather, but we want businesses to stay open for them,” she said. “During Hurricane Lane, there wasn’t much for guests to do.”

At this time, the International Market Place and the Royal Hawaiian Center said they intend to remain open and keep regular hours from 10 a.m to 10 p.m.

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