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Lifestyle // Island Matters
Mufi Hannemann

A Poipourri Of Tourism Matters

Are The Chinese Really Coming? I always have maintained that Hawaii Tourism Authority and all its partners can do all the marketing in the world to lure visitors to 808, but if we lack sufficient and convenient lift capacity to bring visitors to our shores when they want to travel, all their efforts will be for naught.

The recent announcement that Air China will begin three nonstop flights a week from Beijing to Honolulu in early 2014, coupled with Hawaiian Airlines’ intentions also to fly there, is welcome news for the state’s No. 1 industry.

Anecdotally, we continue to hear positive impressions made by the few thousands who are coming now. They appear to be drawn to Hawaii’s scenic beauty and culture. And most importantly, they’re spending their dollars here.

I’ve seen similar positive reaction by the Chinese in the Northern Mariana Islands. One noticeable difference in their favor is that the Chinese have a much easier time traveling to this U.S. affiliated island destination, as they don’t need a visa to go to Saipan.

The fact is the world’s most populous nation has a growing middle class that is going to vacation somewhere. Why shouldn’t Hawaii get a sliver of that market that will put us on the path of diversifying our visitor mix from Asia?

To bring this to pass, we need the White House, the United States Congress and the departments of State and Homeland Security to support a visa waiver policy for China to the U.S.

Most of our U.S. visa waiver policies are with countries in Europe and elsewhere, and very few are with Asian nations. If this is the age of the Pacific Century, as we have heard Washingtonians proclaim so many times before, let’s set a national goal to get the federal stakeholders together to sort out their concerns so that we can make it happen!

Kuhio Avenue Facelift.

Pacrep LLC’s recent ground-breaking ceremony signaling the construction of a 37-floor, 309-residence property (making it the first Ritz-Carlton brand to be built on Oahu) is a major development opportunity for Kuhio Avenue. This portion of the precious two square miles that encompasses Waikiki often has been ignored and neglected. If the blueprint in building the successful Trump Tower is any indication, the Ritz Residences in Waikiki is positioned to do very well.

Jason Grosfeld, the visionary and energetic managing member of Pacrep, led the Irongate development team’s efforts to complete the Trump Tower successfully. He got high marks for putting together a quality cadre of local professionals to work with his development team from the Mainland, went to great lengths to actually listen and assuage local concerns, and brought some new attractions to Waikiki such as the popular BLT restaurant. It is the same blueprint that he is implementing for the Ritz with Dean & DeLuca, a N.Y.-based gourmet market set to open its first store in Hawaii, a farm-to-table restaurant BLT market, and Japan’s highly acclaimed Edo-style sushi bar, Sushi Sho. Many are hopeful that the Ritz will be that sorely needed catalyst to spur further renewal and revitalization along Kuhio Avenue. Hyatt Place Off To A Good Start. Speaking of renewal, who would’ve thought what used to be the Ocean Resort Hotel now has been transformed into the sparkling refurbished Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach? Situated at the Diamond Head mauka portion of Kuhio Avenue, this Hyatt property is creating some positive vibes and buzz of late among those who have checked it out.

Visitors are marveling at the high ceilings that permit natural light and cool breezes to blow through the hotel’s gallery. You can’t help but notice the stunning local artists’ masterpieces that help capture the essence of Hawaii. And it even managed to lure one of Japan’s premier convenience stores – Lawson Station – to its property. Leading the successful transformation of the $45 million renovation of this Chartres Lodging Group hotel is its general manager, Kamehameha Schools alumna Bonnie Kiyabu. Kiyabu leads a highly motivated sales team that has responded to her creative and positive style of management with consistently high occupancy rates and great customer satisfaction.

Three More Reasons To Visit The North Shore. Polynesian Cultural Center’s 50th anniversary week resulted in scores of PCC alums visiting Laie again. Some of them had not been back since the 1990s, ’80s and even the ’70s. Some described the changes at the center, as well as within the vicinity of the Laie community, as an eye-opening experience.

The biggest positive change they noticed was the addition of a number of quality foodie places. Three in particular were mentioned most frequently: Papa Ole’s Kitchen in Hauula Kai Shopping Center, specializing in local-style plate lunches such as pulehu ribs and beef stew that is served with heaps of food; Seven Brothers, located in Laie Shopping Center, where ono-licious backyard burgers, crazy fries, awesome desserts and healthy salads are offered; and Tita’s Grill and Catering in Kahuku on Kamehameha Highway, known for specialty Samoan breakfast items such as cocoa rice, with the famous Junior Ah You homemade bread, garlic shrimp plate lunches, and North Shore wave-size sandwiches. These three restaurants, as well as some other popular local-kine grind places such as Giovanni’s Garlic Shrimp Truck, Kahuku Grill (Seven Brothers’ sister restaurant) and Kahuku Farms Farm Cafe, are stirring up quite a following. More and more visitors to this special part of Oahu are coming for reasons other than the PCC, BYU, the Mormon Temple or checking out perennial football powerhouse Kahuku – they are coming to eat some great chow!

As we like to say, “Nuttin’ wrong wit’ dat.”

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