WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - State officials looking to attract more tourists and boost the economy say cultural events, like this weekend's Pan-Pacific Festival, are a big part of Hawaii's tourism mix.
From Chinese lion dancers to Japanese taiko drummers, it was a feast for the eyes and ears of spectators lining Kalakaua Avenue.
Hawaii tourism officials were dancing to the beat of this drum. Sunday's parade was the culmination of the three-day Pan-Pacific Festival, an international cultural celebration that drew some 3,800 visitors to Oahu and generated about $6.5 million for our economy.
"The main thing that these festivals do is Hawaii is just not a resort, it's an experience," Mike McCartney, Hawaii Tourism Authority, said. "These events provide a rich experience with local people, with visitors."
Kazuhiko Inoue of Japan is among the first-time visitors who say they'll be back.
"What did you enjoy about Hawaii?" this reporter asked.
"Sightseeing and swimming in the sea," the Yokohama resident replied.
"The Hawaiian people are really quite nice," Betty Thurman, visitor from Florida, said. "They really are, so you just can't say enough about them. We've been to some of the luaus and taken in that. We thought that was wonderful."
Riding the wave of improved visitor numbers in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2009, state officials are aggressively going after the Chinese, Japanese and Korean markets.
"Our Asia clients are very, very important to Hawaii's economy because the visitors spend, for example, from a place like Japan, it's $240 a day," McCartney said.
Once they're here experiencing the cultural events and recreational activities Hawaii has to offer, tourism officials are confident they'll be hooked.
"The average Japanese visitor has come six times," McCartney said. "They love the experience of our history, our culture and how we live here in Hawaii with this multi-cultural ethnic mix. These festivals represent that."
"So fun, everyone," Inoue said.
Governor Lingle was in China last week promoting Hawaii. She says Chinese visitors are the fastest growing market here and are the biggest spenders, averaging $312 per day.