WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Less than five months to go until the APEC - Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation - summit here in Honolulu. The world will be watching this November 12th and 13th, so there's no room for missteps. The protocol and planning have been months, if not years, in the making and you may be surprised at how different this international summit is compared to others.
APEC considers its 21 members "economies", not countries - so you won't see any individual, national flags flying in the streets or at meetings. The summit setting will be more relaxed - almost retreat-like - but still, there will be plenty of decorum in their meetings.
"The APEC protocol is alphabetical order by the name of the economy in APEC, so Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile - that's the normal way you would enter and depart, and be seated," says Lauren Moriarity, former U.S. Ambassador to APEC.
Waikiki hotels are also taking unprecedented steps to host these delegations. Many of the larger diplomatic groups, like the U.S., Japan, China, and Russia, will take up entire hotels - with guidance from the APEC host committee.
"They made recommendations to the different economies as to which hotels would best fit their particular needs," says Revell Newton from Starwood Hotels and Resorts Waikiki. "And then, they left it up to the hotels to approach them and work on the arrangements."
The four Starwood properties, for example, will each host a different group: the Secret Service will be at the Princess Kaiulani, the media at the Moana, APEC CEOs will stay at the Royal Hawaiian, and the Chinese, including President Hu Jintao, will stay at the Sheraton Waikiki. Both staff and managers there are taking classes in cultural sensitivity.
"The managers training, we focused on Chinese culture and understanding, as well as business protocol. (For instance), how do you exchange business cards? And when you entertain, how do you arrange the seating to show your respect to Chinese culture, and things like that?" says Starwood Director of Business Development for China, Li Wei.
Former U.S. Ambassador Moriarity thinks it's a chance for Hawaii to showcase flawless hospitality. "To use an example, when people are on vacation, if room service takes an extra five minutes, well, you can sit and enjoy the view for another five minutes. When it might make you late to a bi-lateral meeting with the President of Korea, you want room service to be there on-time but still with aloha!"
Moriarity says these economies have worked together before and doesn't anticipate any protocol blunders when East meets West this November.