Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

December 18 2012

Plenary: Aloha State Hosts Asia-Pacific Economies

Hunter R. Slaton


For the first time in 18 years, a U.S. destination - Honolulu - hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Meeting. All of APEC’s ministerial meetings were held at the Hawaii Convention Center (HCC) on Nov. 7–13, while the Leaders Meeting took place at the JW Marriott Ihilani, and the CEO Forum met at the Sheraton Waikiki.

APEC describes itself as the premier economic forum in the Asia-Pacific region, and its mission is to support sustainable growth and prosperity there. On site for the week of events were approximately 20,000 attendees, from heads of state - including President Barack Obama - to finance ministers, diplomats, policy-makers, and prominent CEOs from each of APEC’s 21 member economies, from Australia to Vietnam.

HCC Assistant General Manager Randy Tanaka served as COO for the APEC Hawaii Host Committee. Although initially involved primarily with managing accommodations at 10 hotels for the U.S. State Department and the various embassies and assorted groups that would be attending APEC, the committee eventually took on much of the meeting’s logistics. “We were responsible for a number of social functions that the destination is committed to when they bid for APEC,” Tanaka told Convene. “There were three receptions. There were some support functions, community coordination, general awareness, working with the security organizations, Secret Service, diplomatic security, [and] working [with] and facilitating transportation. A whole lot that was just generally involved in hosting the meeting.”

Beyond the nuts-and-bolts details, Tanaka and the HCC and APEC Hawaii Host Committee teams were dedicated first and foremost “to really help the president put on a good meeting and be good hosts.” Another goal was to use the platform of APEC to nudge the world’s perception of Hawaii in the direction of it being more than just a leisure destination.

Tanaka was fortunate in that he and his teams had ample time - two years - to prepare for APEC, unlike other major international multi-governmental meetings with shorter lead times, such as the NATO Summit or the G8 or G20. And Hawaii used that time to the fullest, accelerating capital-project programs at Honolulu International Airport and on the road into Waikiki, and cleaning up graffiti and local communities, with the assistance of roughly 2,000 local volunteers.

“We spent a lot of time on education and training,” Tanaka said. “When President Obama announced Hawaii would be the host city for APEC, we set into motion the training and education program by the host committee.” The committee held about 160 outreach meetings to educate community members as to what the APEC opportunity represented, and to discuss cultural differences and the individual member economies that Hawaii would be hosting.

By all accounts, the meeting achieved its policy goals. Among other resolutions and recommendations, according to an APEC press release, the APEC ministers came to an agreement on a number of concrete actions “to strengthen economic integration and expand trade, promote green growth, and advance regulatory convergence and cooperation to achieve economic growth in the region.”

As for Hawaii, while traffic disruptions and security issues did arise, Tanaka said, at the end of the day the effort was worth it. “You’re [working] for the betterment of mankind, because when these guys sit down they talk about cooperation,” he said. “We advanced our destination. We trained all these guys. We got community involved. So, by any stretch of the imagination, it’s a success.”

To learn more about the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Meeting, visit www.apec2011hawaii.com.

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