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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Rain hasn't hurt tourism yet

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

The tourism authority has a message for the Mainland: Despite major flooding, dam failures, sharks near shore and raw sewage flowing around its most famous tourist area, Hawai'i is a tropical-scented, sun-drenched paradise with blue skies and seas.

A nationwide publicity campaign will be launched to spread that message, said Marsha Wienert, tourism liaison officer for the state. It will begin as soon as it stops raining.

"If we'd only get our trade winds back," she said, "everything would be all right."

Although tourism rates do not appear to have dipped beyond more than about 100 canceled reservations, she said, authorities are concerned about the long-term effects of a weather system that has sat over the central Pacific for most of the month, zapping the state's normally favorable wind patterns and replacing sunlit skies with one rain-generated disaster after another.

The list, to date, includes fatalities from the failure of Kaua'i's Kaloko Reservoir dam; major flooding on Kaua'i and the Windward shores of O'ahu; mud-clouded waters that have brought sharks and swimmers together near state beaches; plus mud and rock slides.

The latest? Millions of gallons of untreated sewage flowing directly into the Ala Wai Canal.

"There is no question that is of concern," Wienert said.

The sewage problem is expected to be under control by the end of the week, she said, and tourism officials hope that currents won't push the sewage onto Waikiki Beach before then.

To deal with long-term effects of the problems, news releases have been drafted for the travel sections of major newspapers and footage prepared for network morning magazine shows, she said. Material is being prepared for radio spots as well.

The campaign is expected to cost $100,000.

Reach Karen Blakeman at kblakeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.