Hawaii Tribune-Herald :: Hilo, Hawaii > Local News

Official: It's 'business as almost-usual' on island

by John Burnett
Tribune-Herald Staff Writer
Published: Monday, March 14, 2011 9:13 AM HST

The head of the Big Island Visitors Bureau said there's no reason for prospective visitors to change their travel plans in the aftermath of Friday's tsunami.

"It's business as almost-usual," George Applegate said in a written statement. "The best way to help us is to come visit and enjoy all we have to offer, which is an inspiring experience and vacation."

Meanwhile, state Civil Defense has brought in two teams to assess damages, county Civil Defense Administrator Quince Mento said Sunday.

"We should start getting harder dollar figures attached to the damages starting this week," Mento said. "Hopefully, with the statewide damages, we can get some kind of federal assistance for all the damages that were incurred."

Gov. Neil Abercrombie has declared the state a disaster area; Mayor Billy Kenoi made a similar declaration for Hawaii County.

Applegate described the tsunami's impact on tourism as "minimal" and added: "What can be damaging for visitors is bad information."

Some hotels and businesses along the Kona and Kohala coasts sustained significant damage and were flooded with sea water and debris, but many are up and running as they assess their damages. The tsunami was caused by a devastating earthquake near the east coast of Honshu, Japan. The temblor's magnitude has been upgraded to 9.0 from a preliminary reading of 8.9.

"We send our aloha and heartfelt sympathy to the people of Japan, and to everyone who sustained losses due to the earthquake and tsunami," Applegate said.

King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel in Kailua-Kona remains open despite a report to the contrary Friday by a county official.

The hotel's website states: "The rooms were untouched by the water. Some of our guests are choosing to stay at the hotel, since only the public areas have been affected, however, we are happy to work with our guests to relocate elsewhere, if desired."

According to hotel General Manager Jak Hu, most guests are opting to stay put. The hotel's Billfish Bar reopened Sunday and is serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The pool has also been re-opened, as well.

The hotel's luau "will take a hiatus until the end of the month," the website noted. "We continue the clean-up in the lobby, restaurant, retail areas, and meeting space."

Kailua Pier, which had been erroneously reported as "condemned" Friday by the U.S. Coast Guard, has resumed some commercial boat charter activity, according to BIVB.

"This town is pretty resilient. We're all willing to go the extra mile to make things happen," said Maggie Brown, owner of Body Glove cruises. Brown said her company's whale watches and historical cruises were up and running Sunday. Brown temporarily canceled snorkeling cruises due to poor visibility caused by swirling surges and waves that have now subsided.

On the Kohala Coast, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai remains closed as its staff surveys tsunami damage. Ciro Tacinelli, the resort's marketing director, said guests have been relocated. The resort is calling those scheduled to arrive through Tuesday to inform them of the situation.

Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park remained closed Sunday as staff continued to assess damage. Starting today, visitors will be granted limited access to the park including parking, the visitor center, amphitheater and canoe halau between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

"We're opening it to a certain extent to allow people to come in, and they'll be able to see the damage," said park ranger Eric Andersen. "We hope that once we get clearance and we are able to move further into the royal grounds. we'll be able to open it up in increments. But the park being totally open will probably take a week."

At Kaloko Honokohau National Historical Park, the Hale Ho'okipa visitor contact station is open between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily, but the unimproved road to Kaloko Fishpond remains closed due to damage to the pond, the coastal trail and picnic and parking areas.

Hulihe'e Palace also remains temporarily closed due to flooding in the basement, but the palace's artifacts were successfully relocated.

E-mail John Burnett at- jburnett@hawaiitribune--herald.com.




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