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Monday, September 15, 2014         

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Travel guides hold isles in high regard in 2011

By Erika Engle

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Hawaii tourism appears to be on the rising path to recovery, and if world-renowned travel publications have any say in the matter, 2011 could be even better.

Hawaii's resorts, hotels, spas and restaurants and individual islands themselves received typical praise in 2010 and looking ahead to this year, readers of Travel Weekly, generally industry professionals, have again given Hawaii glowing remarks.

They found the best hotel chain in Hawaii and the South Pacific to be Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, but Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and Westin Hotels and Resorts, which both do business in Hawaii, were cited for overall excellence as luxury and upscale lodging chains. Hawaii's top tour operator winner, as often happens, was Pleasant Holidays.

Hawaii itself is the top U.S. state destination and Maui, is Hawaii's top island according to awards presented at a Plaza Hotel gala in New York City last month.

The Forbes Travel Guide, formerly known as the Mobil Travel Guide, issued its stars for 2011 and two Four Seasons Resorts in Hawaii each got five -- Hualalai and Maui at Wailea.

No Hawaii restaurant received Forbes' full complement, but four Forbes stars were awarded to La Mer and Chef Mavro on Oahu, Spago and Gerard's on Maui and the Dining Room on Lanai.

Speaking of stars and Chef Mavro, Randy Ching, a former colleague of chef and owner George Mavrothalassitis, has joined Chef Mavro as restaurant director and sommelier. Ching is "one of the best sommeliers in Hawaii," which Mavro knows, as the two were at La Mer when it earned its first of now 20 AAA Five Diamond awards decades ago.

Hello Kitty and whoosh! G'bye!

If you missed out on the Hello Kitty watches or Transformer toys that came with McDonald's Happy Meals before Christmas, you are hardly alone.

The promotion was scheduled from Nov. 24 through Dec. 16. Because Sanrio promotions typically perform better in Hawaii than on the mainland, the Hawaii market got an additional allotment of toys. They rightly anticipated increased demand.

Officials were not permitted to release the exact number of toys the isles received, but confirmed that many restaurants sold out several days ahead of the scheduled end of the promotion.

"We were surprised at how quickly our supplies were depleted this year," said Melanie Okazaki, marketing manager of McDonald's Restaurants of Hawaii. "Hawaii customers of all ages, including adults, really love our Sanrio Happy Meal items, and every time we feature Hello Kitty, we try to find the balance between supply and demand."

A still-sealed set of seven pieces with an asking price of $14.99 was listed on eBay Friday -- a pittance compared with something billed as being a baby Miss Piggy McDonald's collectible, listed at $1,295.

The current Happy Meal promotion involves Bakugan Gundalian Invaders (ask your young son) and Only Hearts Pets. The next Sanrio promotion at McDonald's won't be until November, paired as it will be with Bakugan.

Teenie Beanie Babies have been the focus of previous runs on McDonald's, such as in 2009 when the wildly popular collectibles marked the 30th anniversary of the Happy Meal.

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Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Advertiser. Reach her by e-mail at erika@staradvertiser.com.





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