Weather casts cloud over visitor arrivals

Wet weather has dampened some visitors’ love for Kaua’i, with cancellations and early departures turning a normally-strong month into a “soft” one, according to one hotel manager.

The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa in Po’ipu was supposed to be full most of this month, and it is “less than full,” said Doug Sears, resort general manager.

The seemingly endless string of cloudy, rainy days has “caused some early departures and cancellations due to wet weather when they came for sun,” he said specifically of Grand Hyatt Kauai guests.

“I think we’re all experiencing the same,” he said of the island’s hoteliers.

March “was supposed to be strong, but has gone soft,” said Sears, who has been at the Grand Hyatt Kauai for 20 months.

Still, he feels both those at his hotel and those on this island are “blessed” to have upbeat associates and residents even in the midst of constant rainfall and several consecutive days of clouds, he said.

Guests of Kauai Vacation Rentals & Real Estate, Inc. have not been canceling or departing early, said owner Lucy Kawaihalau, who manages many rental properties across the island.

“The guests have been so wonderfully appreciative to be here,” and all of the properties under her management came through the most recent flood episodes unharmed, she said.

There were a few temporary relocations when Kuhio Highway in Kilauea became temporarily impassable, but there have been no complaints, she added.

“Wherever (our) people were, they were taken care of,” and “had no reason to leave,” because the shopping areas, restaurants and other attractions are all open and accessible, said Kawaihalau.

A couple from Tucson, Kawaihalau said, “loved to see the rain. The guests have just been great, and happy to be here.”

Normally, calls trickle into the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau office on Rice Street in the Watumull Plaza building, with would-be visitors requesting copies of the Kaua’i vacation planner and other general information.

Of late, though, a doubling of informational calls both to the KVB office and the toll-free line handled by operators in Honolulu, has caused Sue Kanoho to have to “ramp up the O’ahu call center,” she said.

Scheduled or would-be visitors nearly always have been asking, in the wake of Kilauea flooding last week, “Should I cancel?” or “I can cancel my air reservations without penalty. Should I do it?” said Kanoho, KVB executive director.

“They just need reassurance,” someone to confirm what representatives at resort properties have been telling them, that the only ongoing road closure is one lane of Kuhio Highway near Kilauea, known as “Ground Zero.”

Representatives at the various properties have been “very honest” about the information they’re giving to visitors, that the island has received heavy rainfall but it appears to be over, she added.

Once someone tells them that only 25 rooms at the Kaua’i Marriott Resort & Beach Club remain closed due to flooding, and that with the exception of the single lane closure everything is normal except for the huge amounts of March rainfall, “most everyone is coming,” she said.

“Our issue is really to give them the facts,” answer them truthfully if they ask if the island is under a flash-flood watch or warning, and offer other accurate, up-to-date information, Kanoho continued.

Once KVB officials find out where the visitors are scheduled to stay, they tailor the information to that specific region of the island.

Part of the problem, Kanoho added, is that people are talking about what they see through e-mails, on national TV, and from other sources, about what it looked like the first days after the flooding (at both Kilauea and the Kaua’i Marriott Resort & Beach Club), and not what it looks like today.

Last week, however, was a different story, with those with reservations on the North Shore being redirected during the nearly two days Kuhio Highway in Kilauea was totally closed because of flash-flood damage to the highway, she said.

On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, as reported earlier, KVB officials personally delivered information to representatives of all the car-rental companies at Lihu’e Airport, about the highway closure and re-accommodation options for those scheduled to stay on the North Shore.

Officials at Pahio Resorts offered counter space at the airport as a one-stop information center, she added.

She is hopeful that those who choose not to come to Kaua’i in the muddy aftermath of the flooding that hit Kilauea, Anahola, Moloa’a, Koloa, Po’ipu, ‘Ele’ele, Hanapepe, Waimea, Kekaha, and other parts of the island, will decide to visit the island later.

“Maybe they’ll come back in a few months.”

In response to numerous out-of-state calls received in recent days seeking information about Kaua’i’s weather, Kaua’i government and tourism officials are reassuring travelers they can book a vacation here with confidence, they said in a press release.

“Kaua’i’s airport, its harbor, and businesses are open and ready to accept our visitors in the same way they always have,” said Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste.

“Kaua’i’s aloha spirit remains intact, and the island is green and beautiful,” said Baptiste.

Kanoho said callers are put at ease once they learn flights are operating normally, all accommodations are open, all major roads are open, and operators of all activities are accepting customers.

“Kaua’i’s visitor industry was at its best over this past week, taking care of everyone’s needs, and ensuring guests that their stay would be worthwhile,” Kanoho said.

“I have nothing but admiration for the way our visitor industry has performed.”

Kanoho said visitors booking a Kaua’i vacation in the weeks and months to come can do so with certainty, knowing the island will be as beautiful as ever.

“It was sunny Monday and Tuesday, so that’s a hopeful sign of things to come,” she said.

One remaining effect of the storm is that a short section of Kuhio Highway near Kilauea is operating with a single lane, as repairs are made to the road-way. Anyone driving this route to and from Kaua’i’s North Shore is advised to allow a little extra time, Baptiste and Kanoho said.

Reporters, editors and other staff at The Garden Island newspaper have also received numerous calls and e-mails from people wondering about the state of the island in advance of their planned vacations.

Cathy E. Wyatt, of Cincinnati, Ohio, scheduled to arrive on Kaua’i next week, related stories of road closures in the Koloa and Po’ipu area, and of damage to the Kaua’i Marriott Resort & Beach Club, where she and a group are planning on staying for a portion of their trip, and e-mailed newspaper staff members to get the most current information.

The materials planner with G.E. Aviation, Wyatt is one of a group of 20 people planning on staying also in Po’ipu, and wanted updated information about the roads and properties.

Once she read the e-mail response, she replied, “It is great to hear that things are getting back to ‘normal’ road-wise. We would never cancel our trip.

“We love Kaua’i, and visit every other year,” she said. “Many thanks for the e-mail. Now we know we will be able to get to our condo and hotel.”

Visitors seeking updated information may call KVB’s toll-free information line at 1-800-262-1400, or visit online at www.kauaidiscovery.com.

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