Hawaii anticipates tourism boost from APEC

AP News
Posted: Nov 18, 2009 10:33 AM

Hawaii intends to showcase its tourism opportunities and cultural diversity when more than 10,000 people arrive in the islands for the 2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

It will be the first APEC summit in the United States since 1993, when it was held at Blake Island, Wash. President Barack Obama announced this weekend that his birth state had won its bid to host the meeting.

"It brings a lot of publicity and awareness" about what Hawaii has to offer, said Charles Morrison, President of the East-West Center.

Congress established the Hawaii-based education and research organization in 1960 to strengthen relations and understanding among Asia, the Pacific and the United States.

A successful APEC meeting could help dash Hawaii's reputation for being a poor place to do business, said Mike McCartney, president and chief executive of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

"For decades, Hawaii has struggled with the perceived boondoggle effect. The APEC meetings will dispel that misconception and position Hawaii as a global business destination," McCartney said.

The summit will be held at the Hawaii Convention Center in November 2011. It will feature the leaders of 21 participating countries, senior government officials, business leaders, international economists, Asia-Pacific experts and worldwide media.

"There's no question in anybody's mind that Hawaii will be able to deliver," said state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert. "It could lead to many new advantages for Hawaii as we develop our relationships with Asian countries in the worldwide community."

Gov. Linda Lingle has said Hawaii's selection is an affirmation of its strategic role as a leader in the Asia-Pacific region, and help build a stronger economic foundation for the future.

"We appreciate President Obama selecting Hawaii for this important meeting and recognizing the significant role Hawaii plays as America's most diverse and strategically located state," Lingle said.

As tourism to Hawaii slumps with the global economy, the attention brought by the summit could present an advertising opportunity for potential visitors, said Jerry Gibson, general manager of Hilton Hawaiian Village and Hilton Hawaii's area vice president.

"It's a world marketing opportunity for Hawaii. We'll have the eyes of the world on us here," he said.

APEC's members include Australia, Canada, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, the Philippines, Russia and Vietnam.

"I look forward to seeing you all decked out in flowered shirts and grass skirts," Obama told other Asia-Pacific leaders Sunday.

Other U.S. areas considered to host the meeting were San Francisco, Los Angeles-Orange County, New York and Miami.

The Asian Development Bank meeting in 2001 was the last high-level international gathering in Honolulu.