Hawaii hoteliers will be among the first to net returns from the 2011 Asia-Pacifc Economic Cooperation when its 21 member economies begin next month booking rooms from a short list of hotels that have been cleared to handle the high-level international event.
The APEC Economic Leaders Meeting, which will take place in Honolulu on Nov. 12 and 13 next year, is expected to bring about 15,000 world government and business leaders and an entourage including support staff, security, media, and friends and family to the isles. The potential impact of the event, which is the first APEC summit to be held in the United States since 1993, is finally beginning to solidify after creating a buzz in Hawaii for months.
About 20 hotels, encompassing all of Hawaii’s top brands, will be notified of their selection by the end of the month, said Randall Tanaka, director of sales and marketing for the Hawai’i Convention Center, who met with representatives from the economies last week in Washington, D.C., to discuss their housing needs, which span all categories.
Reservations, which could begin as early as Nov. 1, will be on the books by year’s end, he said. Bookings are expected to fill some 120,600 hotel rooms in what is traditionally an off-season, Tanaka said.
"This is a very big deal for us," said Jerry Gibson, area vice president for Hilton Hawaii. "It’s very similar to planning for a quasi-Olympic event. It’s the biggest event that I’ve known in 24 years of being here."
After select hotels are booked, Tanaka will work with APEC organizers to expand the list. But even hotels without direct bookings will benefit from the large number of visitors, especially in Waikiki, said Ben Rafter, president and chief executive officer of Aqua Hotels & Resorts, a mid priced chain that is vying for a piece of APEC’s business.
"November is generally a shoulder season, so any citywide convention is great," Rafter said.
"Compared to 2010, there could be a double-digit increase in RevPAR (revenue per available room) partially because of the volume of business that APEC brings."
But the benefits go beyond visitor numbers. The summit also is an opportunity for Hawaii to showcase its culture and history, demonstrate that it’s the ideal destination for global business and government gatherings, and expose the world to Hawaii’s resources, said state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert, who spoke to meeting planners about APEC at an MPI Aloha Chapter meeting held yesterday at the Hawai’i Convention Center.
"APEC economies represent 44 percent of global trade, 54 percent of global (gross domestic product) and 40 percent of the world’s population," Wienert said.
As a result, Hawaii’s meeting planners and the vendors they use are gearing up for the chance to pick up APEC-related business, said Frank Robinson, who is MPI Aloha’s president and the CEO of Island Events, a luxury event planning company.
"People are excited, not just about having the president come to Hawaii, but about the overall exposure that it will give the destination and the trickle-down benefits," Robinson said.
Since President Barack Obama is hosting the world-class event, it will send corporate travelers a strong message that it’s possible to conduct serious business in one of the world’s most popular sun, sand and surf leisure destinations, said David Carey, president and CEO of Outrigger Enterprises Group.
"If the president has selected Hawaii as a venue to host this important conference, surely it’s an acceptable place to have a meeting," he said.