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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hawaii enters bid to host 2011 APEC event

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Hawai'i is vying to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation annual ministerial meeting in 2011, according to state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert.

Wienert said the state, assisted by the county and East-West Center president Charles Morrison, put together a pitch in response to a request for proposals to host the gathering of international leaders.

Morrison, who attended yesterday's meeting of the Hawai'i Tourism Authority board, described the annual meeting as one of the most significant international gatherings. It is scheduled to be held in a U.S. city that year.

The annual meeting attracts 21 heads of governments from the Asia-Pacific region to discuss the economy, trade and investments.

Morrison said the countries usually bring large delegations that number several hundred. Morrison estimated the meeting could attract between 10,000 and 18,000 people. "It's a huge event," he said.

This year, the meeting will be in Singapore, and the following year in Japan. The state and Honolulu hope to host the meeting from Nov. 12 to 20, 2011.

Wienert said she does not yet have an estimate of what the economic value of having the international meeting here would be.

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

Morrison said he believes Honolulu offers a good location, closer to Asia-Pacific than other United States cities. And he said Honolulu and the Hawai'i Convention Center offer a location that could be easily secured. "I think we have a very strong case," he said.

He said other U.S. cities hoping to host are the Bay Area and Los Angeles, New York City and Miami.

The HTA board yesterday heard the news of the proposal to host, which didn't require any action yet. Member Sharon Weiner asked if the proposal would require money later from the state tourism agency. Wienert replied that is yet to be determined.

In other news, the board approved allocating money for marketing to help ease the current tourism slump. Last month, the board agreed to hold back more than $2 million from a variety of programs with the idea that marketing took precedence even over worthwhile programs.

Yesterday, the board agreed to spend an additional $700,000 for marketing to Japan; $310,000 more for meetings, incentives and convention market (mostly in Japan); and $100,000 more for North America. The board decided to postpone a proposal to spend another $607,000 on marketing to South Korea, which is expected to grow extensively in the coming year because of eased travel restrictions.

Wienert questioned the wisdom of spending the money on the Asia markets rather than North America, the traditionally strongest source of Hawai'i visitors.

David Uchiyama, HTA marketing chief, said the agency already has committed an additional $2.8 million to North America and wanted to take advantage of opportunities in Japan, which sends a higher-spending visitor.

With the yen strong against the U.S. dollar and the fuel surcharge declining, Uchiyama said there is strong potential for visitors from Japan.

Board member member Michael Kobayashi supported that move. "I think that the time is now to invest in the Japanese market," he said.

Weiner cautioned against second-guessing a recommendation by staff and members of the board's marketing committee. "We're also stepping into the zone of micromanaging staff," she said.

The board also got a brief update on the search for a new president and CEO to replace Rex Johnson, who left Oct. 8. The Mainland search company plans to conduct interviews later this month and report a short list of candidates to the full board by next month.

Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.