Candidates Vow Tourism Support

Tourism was front-and-center on the campaign platforms of candidates for U.S. Senate and Honolulu mayor at a recent public forum sponsored by the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association (HLTA). This was the first Senatorial forum for the 2012 election, and we were proud to present it.

Senate participants included Republican John Carroll and Democrats Ed Case and U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono. Mayoral candidates were Kirk Caldwell and Mayor Peter Carlisle. Former Govs. Linda Lingle and Ben Cayetano, vying for Senate and mayor, respectively, were invited but did not participate.

Judging by the Congressional candidates’ written and oral responses to questions submitted by HLTA members, the visitor industry can anticipate strong support for the streamlining of the visa process and other federal measures to stimulate travel and the economy.

On the mayoral front, Caldwell and Carlisle pledged their support for continued infrastructure improvements to Waikiki, the rail transit project, public safety and resort development at Ko Olina.

The forum was broadcast on KITV. Readers can view the telecast through our HLTA home page ( by clicking on KITV’s link in the “Updates” section.

In addition, we have posted the five candidates’ written responses to our questions.

* New University of Hawaii head football coach Norm Chow paid a visit to Waikiki to speak to tourism executives at a breakfast meeting at the Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, sponsored by the HLTA.

The coach recalled that it wasn’t until he was immersed in the interview process that he realized how important the job was to the community. UH wanted a program that and coach who represented not only the school and its students, but all of Hawaii. UH football is “the only game in town,” said Chow, and because of “who we are, that’s very important.” As coach, his goal is to put forth a product that “truly represents Hawaii.”

He asked football fans to be patient because the team is young. In addition to a complete overhaul of the coaching staff, there are no senior starters on offense or defense. He also noted that his staff is actively recruiting in Hawaii, as well as the Mainland, Australia and Samoa, partially in response to the influx of Mainland college recruiters targeting local football prospects. In reference to this heightened competition from elsewhere, Coach Chow pointed out that there’s a growing gap between the haves and have-nots in college sports, and that the disparity will have a significant impact on the future of Hawaii’s athletic programs.

In answer to a question about how he encourages a local prospect to stay home and play for UH, Coach Chow said he tells them we play good football in Hawaii, that a student-athlete can get a good education here, and that there’s no need to go anywhere else.

There are parallels between the UH football program and our visitor industry. Everyone who works in the industry represents Hawaii and its people to more than 6 million visitors a year, while our resorts and travel businesses compare and compete favorably with destinations across the globe. While we may not be the only game in town, economy-wise we are the largest, and that’s why we continue to take very seriously our roles as job-creators, revenue-producers and contributors to our community.

* As a postscript, I was delighted to see that the National Football League will play the 2013 Pro Bowl in our state. As someone who worked with the NFL on contract extensions and Pro Bowl Week festivities, and now as a representative of the visitor industry, I appreciate the significance of this annual contest and its contributions to our economy and sports calendar.

Virgilio GanalIn discussions I’ve had with NFL executives, they’ve expressed their delight and relief that a new deal is in place.

It’s clear that NFL players, their families and fans love Hawaii. It’s also apparent that the league is likely to move this annual contest to other cities on occasion. As such, it’s imperative that state officials craft a proactive, creative plan to make Hawaii the prime spot for the Pro Bowl. Ideas I’ve espoused include hosting a pre-season game when the Pro Bowl isn’t being played here, or scheduling more activities on the Neighbor Islands. But given this year’s worry and uncertainty about the game, let’s not wait again until the last minute to act on an event as important as this.


Virgilio Ganal

Carpenter foreman Virgilio Ganal is always looking for ways to do his job better and improve the Moana Surfrider. That’s why he was honored at the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association’s Na Po’e Pa’ahana awards program this year.

When musicians at the Beach Bar outgrew their tiny stage, Virgilio designed and directed construction of an attractive, larger stage, which also enabled the hotel to add lunchtime music and increase revenue. He designed and built a display to advertise hotel attractions for the sales department, created a desk and display case to promote the spa, and designed two computer terminals/bussing stations to improve service and appearance at the Beach Bar. Virgilio assists with the Moana’s Christmas decorations and staging for the Aloha Week Ho’olaulea festivities.

When not at work, Virgilio Ganal volunteers to teach young people carpentry at the Intensive Learning Centers, helps coach Little League, assists the Girl Scouts, and devotes his time to his daughter’s school and other activities.