POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 30, 2010
An impending influx of thousands of Taiwanese visitors could be the tip of a looming tourism iceberg for Hawaii. They could represent a rising tide of Chinese visitors that will lift many business-boats in Waikiki and elsewhere.
For instance, Wolfgang's Steakhouse in Royal Hawaiian Center will host some 5,000 diners associated with Taiwan-based Nan Shan Life Insurance Co. Ltd. throughout September and October.
"I guess they have over 18 charters coming over the next 2 1/2 months," said Bill Nickerson, general manager of the restaurant. "That's 7,000 people."
The lion's share of them will be sampling American, big-city-style steakhouse fare at the house that Wolfgang Zwiener built.
"Right now, because we're in season, we're doing 450 to 500" diners a night, but those numbers would have been destined to dip during the impending shoulder season, when tourism numbers generally drop as the school year gets under way.
Reservations from Nan Shan-connected diners will comprise about 150 to 200 meals a night, so "we'll be doing 400 a night if not more," Nickerson said.
Nod your head if you, too, can see other business executives nodding in agreement.
There is often a line outside the restaurant, which accepts walk-ins. "I have to be very careful on reservations because I do lose seating, but I have back rooms I will convert. I use them now for overflow dining."
The restaurant is seeking permission from the Honolulu Liquor Commission to extend its premises to allow for outdoor dining, not just for the Chinese visitors, but given the direction of the restaurant's growth, "by December we're going to need that seating anyway," said Nickerson.
For years we have seen groundwork laid and heard state officials' predictions about how big tourism from China and Korea will be and that those emerging markets are about to burst forth with visitors to the islands.
"Maybe this is not specifically mainland China, but these are definitely Chinese tourists that are coming and discovering Hawaii," he said. "We're on the forefront of seeing some large numbers coming through. That bolsters the economy. ... It looks like (official efforts) might be paying off," Nickerson said.
They like it, they really like it, to misappropriate Sally Field's notorious quote.
The Hawai'i Convention Center has received yet another accolade from readers of a trade publication.
Following a reader poll, Association Meetings magazine honored the center with a 2010 Inner Circle Award in the category of Top Convention Centers, in which it was among 15 winners.
"This is a significant award for us since a majority of our business comes from association groups," Joe Davis, SMG general manager of the Hawai'i Convention Center, said in a statement.
The convention center is managed and marketed by Philadelphia-based SMG, a private facility management company with 143 venues around the world.
SMG operates the Hawai'i Convention Center under contract with the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
ON THE NET:» www.wolfgangssteakhouse.net/waikiki