Hawaii fears storm will hurt tourism

September 14, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

When Hurricane Iniki swept through the popular resort island of Kauai Friday and Saturday, it leveled buildings, severed communications and may have blown away travel promoters' chances of boosting Hawaii's already sagging tourism industry.

Known as Hawaii's "Garden Island" because of its lush terrain and exotic scenery, Kauai generates about 10 per cent of Hawaii's $10 billion in annual tourism revenue. But it appears that Iniki has crushed much of Kauai's capacity to attract visitors.

Unless travel promoters are able to generate increases in visits to the other islands, which were unaffected or damaged less severely, the state of Hawaii could lose at least $250 million, about 10 percent of the tourism revenue projected for the balance of the year, said Paul Lawler, spokesman for the Hawaii Visitors Bureau.

"Obviously, we're concerned about impact on tourism," said Mr. Lawler, noting that Kauai has a 10th of the state's 74,000 hotel rooms. "About 90 percent of the tourist facilities will continue to .. operate, but we're worried because Kauai has been our third-most-popular tourist draw."

The Hawaii Visitors Bureau, a non-profit group financed by the state and segments of the tourism industry, had just launched a $3 million promotional campaign primarily designed to encourage travelers to consider Kauai and the other lesser-known islands in addition to the popular Oahu, the site of Honolulu.

Kauai was a linchpin of the campaign. It has traditionally drawn thousands of tourists in the fall from the U.S. mainland, Australia and Japan.

Typically, tourism in the island chain peaks in July and August, and in December and January.

Mr. Lawler said the visitors bureau is preparing a video to be distributed to television news departments in the United States. The video will stress the fact that most of Hawaii was "not devastated" by Iniki, he said.

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