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Hotels vie to host APEC participants

High-profile international meetings set for November will bring lots of revenue to Hawaii’s economy

By Allison Schaefers

LAST UPDATED: 6:45 p.m. HST, Oct 20, 2011

Three of Hawaii's largest hotel brands, Prince, Hilton and Starwood, are likely to host three of the top countries at the 2011 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November, and other hotels cleared for the high-level international event are in the final stages of negotiations.

The Hilton Hawaiian Village is close to signing the U.S. delegation for APEC, said sources familiar with APEC plans in Hawaii. The Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki will host Japan.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts will host China at the Sheraton Waikiki. CEOs from APEC countries attending the event will fill extra rooms at the Sheraton Waikiki and the Royal Hawaiian, which will also be the site of the APEC summit’s opening reception. The Sheraton Princess Kaiu­lani will house the U.S. Secret Service, and Starwood is finalizing the contract for the U.S. media to stay at the Wes­tin Moana Surfrider, the same property where the White House press corps stayed during President Ba­rack Oba­ma’s previous visits to Oahu.

With these bookings and others, Hawaii is about a third of the way to realizing the 120,000 or so hotel nights that will be booked in connection with APEC, said Randy Tanaka, assistant general manager of the Hawai‘i Convention Center, who is assigned to APEC for operational and logistical considerations.

“All of the economies have narrowed down their selections, and almost all those that have not signed contracts are talking to just one hotel,” Tanaka said.


Constitution-based federal republic; strong democratic tradition

>> President: Barack Obama
>> Population (July 2011 estimate): 313,232,044
>> GDP (2009 estimate): $14.12 trillion
>> 4,589,973 visitors to Hawaii in 2010


Constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government

>> Head of state: Emperor Akihito
>> Prime minister (head of government): Naoto Kan
>> Population (2010 estimate): 127.08 million
>> GDP (2009 estimate): $5.068 trillion (official exchange rate)
>> 1,229,762 visitors to Hawaii in 2010


Communist Party-led state

>> President: Hu Jintao
>> Population (July 2010 estimate): 1,330,141,295
>> GDP (2009): $4.814 trillion (exchange rate-based)
>> 66,047 visitors to Hawaii in 2010



>> 15,000 to 20,000 participants

>> 120,000-plus hotel room nights

>> $120 million in direct spending

>> Meeting space filled at more than 16 hotels and the Hawai‘i Convention Center

>> Neighbor island travel expected

>> Hawaii’s chance to shine as a destination for business and high-level meetings

>> Hawaii’s opportunity to build more relationships in Asia and the Pacific

APEC officials use the word “economies” instead of “countries” to describe APEC members and say that is because APEC meetings are mainly concerned with trade and economic issues.

So far, about 16 hotels, encompassing all of Hawaii's top brands from Waikiki to Kahala, have confirmed 5,000 rooms or about 40,000 room nights for APEC, Tanaka said.

“But, we still have two more waves to go,” Tanaka said. “The security and protocol officers and the media have not completed their bookings.”

The APEC Economic Leaders Meeting, which will take place in Hono­lulu on Nov. 12 and 13, is expected to bring about 15,000 world government and business leaders from 21 economies and an entourage including support staff, security, media and friends and family to the isles. The event, which is the first APEC summit to be held in the United States since 1993, could approach $120 million in direct spending, said Tim Johns, vice president of the APEC host committee, who spoke Tuesday night to the Waikiki Neighborhood Board.                            

“The eyes of the world will be upon us for at least two days and maybe for four or five days,” Johns said. “We already have a strong leisure brand; APEC gives us an opportunity to position Hawaii as a place for high-level meetings and more.”

While most APEC hotel business has been spoken for, Tanaka said some remains. Two member economies are waiting to sign contracts until after their elections conclude in June, he said.

“They are holding space but don’t want to make a commitment because their leadership could change,” Tanaka said.

David Carey, president and chief executive of Outrigger Enterprises Group, said the chain is close to securing one or two contracts.

“We’re probably short on meeting space for this kind of event,” Carey said.

But the chain has taken the lead in providing hospitality training to the destination for APEC and will increase Internet bandwidth at its properties, he said.

Hotels with ample meeting, banquet and entertainment space were the most competitive, said Revell Newton, complex director of sales and marketing at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Waikiki.

“We were originally looking at the U.S. to take over a majority of our inventory, but they moved to the Hilton,” Newton said. “Economies need lots of space for their bilateral meetings. The National Center for APEC, which is made up of the CEOs from the member economies, and China will take all of our meeting space.”

Newton said Starwood is preparing to host APEC-related visitors at all four of its Waikiki properties. Hosting chief executive officers from APEC economies is a chance for Starwood Hawaii to net business bookings long after the event, he said.

The chain, which was an early contender for China, began laying the groundwork to secure the market more than a decade ago, said Wei Li, the director of business development China for Starwood Hotels and Resorts in Hawaii.

“We’ve been doing a lot of developmental work with China and feel that we are the best prepared of the Hawaii hotels to host this emerging market,” Li said.

Starwood has increased employee cultural training and begun to produce more Chinese signs, brochures and other marketing collateral, Newton said.

“We’ll also be adding jook, fried doughnuts and hot soy milk — the kinds of food that our Chinese guests favor — to our menu,” he said.

APEC will bring in millions of dollars in revenue to Hawaii, as does any convention of this magnitude, said Jerry Gibson, area vice president of Hilton Hawaii.

“We are also looking forward to the benefit of showing off our state, our facilities and our aloha to the elite group of businessmen and government figures that will be in attendance,” Gibson said.

Hilton is focused on communications and service training for APEC, he said.

“All of our meetings will be in VIP form,” he said. “We are currently renovating our Rainbow Tower, and it will be ready to go to for the meeting.”

Clarification: Three of Hawaii's largest hotel brands are likely to host three of the top countries at the 2011 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November. An earlier version of the story included only two of the hotel brands.

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