By Brooks Baehr - bio | email
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The push to spruce-up Honolulu International Airport and beautify Nimitz Highway for the APEC conference cost taxpayers millions of dollars, but are the improvements giving people arriving for APEC and other visitors a better first impression of Honolulu?
Hawaii News Now put the upgrades to the test by tagging along with two visitors from Australia as they transitioned from the airport to their hotel in Waikiki.
"Let me take care of the bag. You go right ahead in," the taxi dispatcher at the airport said as she directed Janine Graetz and Chris Wenban to their waiting cab.
Graetz and Wenban are from Sydney. They are not in Hawaii for APEC. They are here to vacation.
As their cab begins its journey, we asked about their experience at and impressions of the airport.
"It's good because it's small," Wenban said.
The state recently spent $7 million on improvements at Honolulu International Airport.
Almost half of that money, $3.2 million, was used renovating the international arrivals area.
"It was very pleasant. Actually I got through customs really quickly. There seemed to be a lot of people processing everybody," Graetz said.
"You kind of get into holiday mood kind of quickly because everyone is kind of 'aloha,' and at an island speed but in a good way," Wenban added.
As the drive continued, our subjects passed $1.3 million of new landscaping in the median on Nimitz Highway. We did not point out the new trees and sod in the median, but they are noticed.
"The palm trees, you know you are on an island because of the palm trees," Wenban said.
"It's like someone's really tried to give you that, if this is the main way in and everyone's got to follow it, someone's tried to make it nice," Graetz commented.
The only negative comment came as they passed the tall concrete silos near Pier 23.
"It looks like a cement works or something, but that is not attractive at all," Wenban remarked.
The ladies spotted a few homeless people, but said they were not bothered by them. Homelessness they said is a sad part of life in many cities.
All in all Wenban and Graetz told us they were pleasantly surprised with the drive from the airport to Waikiki and were primed for the rest Hawaii has to offer.
"Let's go and get changed," Wenban said to Graetz, who answered, "Go hit the shops and the beach."