APEC: Hawaii’s Place In The Sun

Mufi Hannemann
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July 06, 2011 | Hawaiian Airlines Discount Share

It seems like it was just yesterday that I received an inquiry from East-West Center president Charles Morrison about the City and County of Honolulu’s interest in submitting a multi-jurisdictional proposal to host the 2011 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Honolulu.

Recognizing that safety and security, traffic control, public transportation, parks and facility upkeep, and myriad infrastructure needs would be largely the city’s kuleana, my administration assessed the idea before joining the EWC, Hawaii Tourism Authority and state government in submitting the proposal. Other cities had submitted competing proposals, so imagine our elation when President Obama announced that Honolulu had won the bid.

The event is now four short months away: this November. Leaders from at least 20 member economies, including President Obama, up to 20,000 business and government delegates and the international news media will be in Hawaii for the talks.

Bank of Hawaii chairman and CEO Peter Ho is head of the host committee, and he’s helped organize a solid publicprivate partnership consisting of representatives from business, government, education, the military, labor, community organizations and more. He spoke recently to Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association members at a full house at Royal Hawaiian Hotel to fill us in on the committee’s progress.

He pointed out that this showcase event has enjoyed a “broad consensus of support” that has been key. About 80 percent of the funding received thus far has been from the private sector, from the visitor industry, local businesses, international corporations, foundations, labor unions, health groups and others.

Kurt Tong is the American ambassador to APEC. Bruce Asato / Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo

APEC will achieve a number of goals, said Ho, among them: It will deliver a “world-class” level of support to the State Department, the White House and the president, who are the official hosts for the summit.

The local host committee wants to “share Hawaii stories” with the delegates and position our community to “shine as brightly as it can” by showcasing education, research, health sciences, astronomy and other island assets. APEC will show the “quality of Hawaii” for both visitor and business travel.

And the group has planned Neighbor Island tours before and after the summit as a means of closing the “false distance” between the islands.

From the very moment the APEC proposal was brought to my attention as mayor, I recognized it as a perfect opportunity to demonstrate Hawaii’s role as the “Geneva of the Pacific,” a dream offered decades ago by newspaper publisher Bud Smyser. Hawaii has long been a meeting place for prominent trade groups and business organizations, but perhaps none will be as prominent as this summit of world leaders.

Given the importance of APEC, it can become the catalyst for our nation to prioritize the easing of travel restrictions, specifically through visa waivers. We must balance hospitality and security, and the waivers can pave the way as they did when Japanese were granted the waivers which greatly accelerated travel from that country to ours.

China, in particular, is a potentially huge travel market that we could tap. Chinese now wait an average of 48 days for a visa interview at a U.S. Consulate.

By contrast, European travelers can get an appointment in 12 days or less. The Commerce Department predicts that even a 10 percent increase in foreign travel to our country would generate 100,000 jobs. Imagine what that could do for Hawaii ...

Mike Ajifu

Our efforts in executing a successful summit should portend benefits for Hawaii and our nation. With all of us working together, APEC will be our chance to shine, our time to enjoy a place in the sun.


Mike Ajifu

Position: Bellman

Location: Aqua Palms & Spa

Island: Oahu

Guests’ compliments never stop for Mike Ajifu, a bellman at the Aqua Palms and Spa in Waikiki, and the reasons are many.

Mike worked at an airline while attending college before making the change to the hotel industry. Over the years, he’s made such a lasting impression on visitors that guests from former hotel employers have come to visit him and even book rooms at the Aqua. Known for going the extra mile in everything he does, Mike gave the expression new meaning when Korean honeymooners lost their passports. Needing replacement passports from the Korean consulate but due to leave the next day and also wanting to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center, Mike took the couple to the consulate after work, then drove them all the way to Laie for the show, refusing to take no for an answer.

Mike’s spirit spills over to his personal endeavors, where he volunteers with the Japanese program at his alma mater, MidPacific Institute, and also coaches football with the Pac-5 varsity team.

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