APEC in the short and long term for Hawaii

By Teri Okita – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - We don't know the exact, short-term economic impact of APEC yet. The Hawaii Tourism Authority should have the numbers soon, but many doubt it will reach the 120 million dollars in direct and indirect spending that the state projected.

It's also hard to say how many of the 20-thousand additional visitors expected actually showed up, but business sure seemed slow. Regardless, many Hawaii leaders believe APEC week was a big success for Hawaii - on many levels.

Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association CEO Mufi Hannemann says, "It's a long-term investment; although, there were some disappointed folks out there with respect to the fact that they expected a lot of business or economic activity."

Like Hannemann, many Hawaii leaders say the long, not short, term rewards generated from APEC are most important, especially when it comes to media exposure and business partnerships developed.

"The most significant thing is going to be the relationships … and what didn't happen in front of the camera but what happened behind the scenes," says Honolulu mayor Peter Carlisle.

Some critics say the 120 million dollar projection was overly optimistic - that the delegates came to work, not shop - and that many businesses actually lost money.

Others, though, are seeing dividends directly attributed to APEC.

"We've already received a commitment from one of the major companies that they'll be conducting their business travel here at the Royal Hawaiian," says hotel general manager, Kelly Hoen. "We're also working on, again, from one of the major companies, an incentive program for 2013 and 2014."

If this really is a game changer for Hawaii businesses, proponents say the work isn't done. "I don't really believe that APEC began and ended with one week. If we're really going to reap the full benefits, we've got to follow-up. We've got to follow through."

They also note the APEC intangibles. Hawaii proved it can host and secure an event of this magnitude - which they hope will keep visitors coming back. One of the things business leaders say they'll continue to push for is a loosening of visa regulations between the U.S. and other nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

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