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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, October 11, 2001

The September 11th attack
Media coverage delights team on tourism mission

By David Butts
Advertiser Staff Writer

TOKYO — Japanese media gave wide coverage to a comment by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that he loves Hawai'i, accomplishing one of the goals of Gov. Ben Cayetano's mission.

Cayetano met with Koizumi for about 10 minutes and asked the prime minister to make a statement supporting travel to Hawai'i. Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Japanese air travel to the Islands is down 40 percent.

Koizumi said in English, "I love Hawai'i."

The comment and an earlier news conference by Cayetano were reported in at least four major Japanese dailies and on four television networks.

Cayetano said he thought the meeting was "very successful."

"I thought the coverage was objective and fair," he said. "It tells people we're in town."

Cayetano and his 20-member "aloha mission" have now moved to Osaka as they continue to press their message that travel to Hawai'i is safe and is the best way for the Japanese to show their sympathy with Americans.

Earlier, the governor met with Japanese Transportation Minister Chikage Ogi. According to Cayetano, Ogi said she believes travel to Hawai'i is safer than traveling to Okinawa.

Cayetano said Ogi also loves Hawai'i, holds a Hawai'i driver's license, has a condominium here, and plans to retire in the Aloha State.

Cayetano also met with Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka and former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.

"Every official said they love Hawai'i," Cayetano said.

Cayetano has said that if the meeting persuaded Koizumi to encourage Japanese people to travel to Hawai'i, the state's mission to the country will be a success.

The Hawai'i contingent includes two former governors, two mayors, executives from seven hotel chains, officials from the Hawai'i Tourism Authority, the heads of the Islands' top two banks, and officials with the two local airlines.

The delegation has been meeting with travel agents and others in Japan to deliver its message that it's safe to travel to Hawai'i and Japanese tourists are still welcome.

The shutdown of all flights in the United States for a few days after the attacks had a tremendous impact on many Japanese, who fear that, as tourists, they may be stranded in Hawai'i if the anti-terrorist campaign escalates or other attacks occur. Some Japanese also may feel it would be insensitive to be frolicking on a beach when Americans are grieving.

Others note that the Japanese preference for group tours and their ethos of accepting responsibility when things go wrong have combined to create another barrier: Tour organizers fear they would have to take responsibility, even resign from their companies, if their group is hurt or stuck while overseas.

Meanwhile, the economy in Japan poses another hurdle. It has been in sad shape for more than a decade and was turning worse even before Sept. 11. Now, it is almost certainly in recession.