HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - By: Melanie Yamaguchi
An array of exhibits - ranging from a traditional Japanese bon dance to a colorful parade of performances from the Pacific Rim - at an upcoming cultural festival will give residents and tourists plenty of reason to celebrate the diversity that defines Hawaii as a melting pot, a local tourism official said at a press conference Tuesday.
"Travel is about bringing people together and when we get together, we make peace around the world," said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
The 19th annual Honolulu Festival begins March 2 with music and dance performances, arts, crafts and other exhibits at three locations: The Hawaii Convention Center, Waikiki Beach Walk and DFS Galleria. It ends March 3 with a fireworks show over Waikiki Beach.
This year's theme - "Transforming the world; Connect! Discover! Let each experience fascinate you!" - conveys the festival's goal of perpetuating strong cultural and ethnic ties between Hawaii and Asia-Pacific.
"It sends our message of aloha back to all the countries that surround the Pacific Rim," Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said, adding that it reaffirms principles set by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
In one of the most diverse big cities in the nation and possibly the world, Caldwell said, this event helps bring people together as one distinct community.
"It's part of the fabric that defines all of us," he said. "What's special about all of us and that is we come from so many different places, that we live together here in harmony."
Mike McCartney said approximately 4,500 performers and visitors will travel to Hawaii from Japan, China, the Philippines and other Pacific Rim countries for the event. It expects to generate about $11 million in visitor spending and more than $1 million in tax revenue.
"I think spending should be higher this year than in previous years because overall, visitor spending is up from Japan," McCartney said.
About 1.4 million Japanese visitors came to Hawaii in 2012, according to McCartney. Spending has increased since 2011 from $260 per person per day to about $300.
"Japanese are very good visitors," McCartney said. "The thing that makes Japanese visitors special is they have a lot of respect and aloha for the Hawaiian culture."