State investigating privately owned Pearl Harbor tour website

HONOLULU (AP) — The state Office of Consumer Protection is investigating representations made by a privately owned website that offers tours of the memorials and monument at Pearl Harbor, according to agency officials.

The Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau does not appear to have any ties with government-sanctioned tourism entities such as the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau or the organizations that support and operate the Pearl Harbor sites.

“We have never heard of this organization,” said Charlene Chan, director of communications for the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

The website for the Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau lists the same address as the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center, which is operated by the National Park Service.

The bureau was registered with the state in 2015 and is operated by businessman James Owen. He said the bureau is independently operated to promote and assist visitors with learning about Pearl Harbor historic sites.

“Like other responsible organizations that offer tours, transportation and information about Pearl Harbor, we work in accordance with government rules and regulations, but are not required to have any official government sanction,” Owen said.

He said that using “bureau” in the name is not inherently misleading, and it does not require approval by a government entity.

The bureau website states that it operates without taxpayer funding, and it offers tours through partnerships with authorized companies.

Steve Levins, executive director of the Office of Consumer Protection, said Hawaii law is clear that if “you are engaging in conduct that causes a likelihood of confusion or misunderstanding as to the source, sponsorship, approval or certification of services, it may be an unfair or deceptive trade practice.”

Violations can result in fines ranging from $500 to $10,000.