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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, March 4, 2006

Wet weather puts damper on tourism

 •  Downpour damages many crops

By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Staff Writer

There were few people at Kuhio Beach Park in Waikiki yesterday at dusk. Nearby Waikiki Aquarium was one of the few places in town that reported a boost in visitors, some who said they were studying up on fish for Hanauma Bay when the weather clears.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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The downpours over the island the past couple of days have meant canceled tours and activities and fewer customers for many businesses selling outdoor fun.

Kualoa Ranch canceled all its tours yesterday and Thursday because of road closures and unsafe, wet conditions, said president John Morgan. The ranch gets a couple of hundred customers a day on average, he said.

"Never seen this type of rain before," he said, adding that one of the rain gauges on the property showed 21 inches of rain fell Wednesday and Thursday. "Clearly the lost revenue is not a good thing," Morgan said. "But in the long run we'll just weather the storm."

The weather cleared up yesterday, bulldozers worked to clear roads on the property marred by landslides and Morgan expected the ranch to be up and running today.

The closure of the Kailua-bound side of the Pali Highway and the lousy weather meant significantly fewer customers for Twogood Kayaks & Canoes in Kailua.

"Today I think we've had four transactions on the cash register," owner Bob Twogood said at noon yesterday. But he added that he expects the damper on business this time of year.

"This rainy period has lasted longer at one period of time than most other years that I can remember so there is an impact there," Twogood said. "But it's not something that is difficult for us to get through. Our employees are kind of screaming because they don't get a lot of hours during a time like this but you can understand that. They understand."

O'ahu Nature Tours also canceled some of its tours yesterday and the previous two days, said owner Michael Walther.

"We always make sure our guests are first and foremost, and we look out for their safety on all the trails and when we have any flash flood warnings we generally close all of our tours," he said.

While the weather has "been very problematic" and has some effect on the company, "it's something that we can withstand," Walther said. "I'm sure the weather's going to be clearing soon and I know everybody's trying to open up the highway."

In the meantime, the Polynesian Cultural Center, which closed Thursday largely because the roads were shut down, reopened yesterday.

The rainy weather kept at least some hotel concierges busy finding things for visitors to do as lu'au and other outdoor activities were canceled.

Tourists, many of whom flew here to escape dreary weather on the Mainland, were sent indoors to museums, movie theaters, malls and restaurants.

The Waikiki Aquarium saw a definite increase in the number of visitors, according to director Andrew Rossiter. He said some noted they enjoyed the opportunity to see and learn about the fish they expect to see in Hanauma Bay when the weather changes.

Visitors are obviously disappointed by the weather but have generally maintained a good attitude, said Cherri Larson, concierge at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa, where it was "absolutely pouring" yesterday afternoon.

"They say, 'Well at least it's warm. ... At least it's rain and not ice,' " Larson said. "And of course the thing that we typically get is, 'When's the rain going to stop?' And unfortunately we don't have that ability to predict that. So it is disappointing for the guest, but they still enjoy the resort."

Mike Doi, concierge at the Outrigger Waikiki, also said visitors didn't seem very upset.

"They keep telling me it's better than cold weather up in the Northeast," he said. "A lot of them are being good sports about it. But it does make me a lot busier in the mornings. With all the cancellations, they're asking for things to do."

Not all outdoor activities were out of the question. A few hours of sun yesterday allowed for some beach activities, some visitors went golfing on the 'Ewa side of the island, and some also went to Hanauma Bay, Doi said.

"They're going to get wet anyway," he said.

Reach Lynda Arakawa at larakawa@honoluluadvertiser.com.