Look past the picturesque beaches, past the calming waves and past the towering volcanoes of Hawai’i, and you’ll discover why everyone in the business world is turning their focus to these islands: a bridge.
No, not an actual man-made bridge, but rather the figurative bridge that the state represents between North America and the booming Asia-Pacific business sector.
“We’re going to have to expand our business interaction with the fastest-growing region in the world,” President Barack Obama, told the world’s top leaders in Honolulu at the 2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting. “On the business side, this is where the action is going to be.”
A new survey from Hotels.com proves President Obama’s prediction to indeed be true: Chinese travelers now represent the world’s biggest spenders with $102 billion spent on international travel in 2012. The Hawai’i Tourism Authority is doing its part to capitalize on the opportunity, too, with the recent selection of new destination marketing partners that will specifically target China and Taiwan.
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Meetings Find the Action
As the rapid growth in the Asia-Pacific region continues to pick up speed, President Obama’s declaration is resonating with many meeting professionals. Just ask Catherine Rydell, CAE, Executive Director and CEO of the American Academy of Neurology.
“The Hawai’i Convention Center taught us how to do international outreach both culturally and from the point of view of an organization hoping to build attendance,” Rydell said after hosting the AAN Annual Meeting in Honolulu in 2011. “We worked for three years with the Center on our international outreach program and strategy.”
The strategy included the organization’s first-ever ambassador program that included local contacts in China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Korea, along with micro-site translations for each country to facilitate a more welcoming marketing campaign and registration process. All that work paid off, too. Rydell and the AAN saw their attendance double from Australia and China, and Japanese attendance rose by a whopping 63 percent from previous year.
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While Hawai’i’s position on the map is a no-brainer benefit, Michelle Crowley, manager, global development, highlights that the state is much more than a convenient middle ground between North America and Asia-Pacific.
“There are tremendous local educational resources in Hawai’i that connect the entire world,” Crowley says.
One of Crowley’s most coveted resources is the East Wester Center, an institution designed to promote cross-cultural understanding between people from the United States and people from countries in the Asia-Pacific region. For planners, the respected faculty at the East West Center can provide much-needed advice on the cultural norms that vary among different Asia-Pacific countries.
The institution’s presence also means that planners have a built-in cast of potential speakers for their meetings. Crowley took advantage of the opportunity for the 2013 PCMA Global Professionals Conference where retired US Ambassador Lauren Kahea Moriarty, former U.S. Diplomat and Diplomat-in-Residence at the East-West Center will offer attendees her first-hand perspective from living and working in China, Taiwan, Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan.
“Organizations of all types are looking to help their attendees understand the nuances of cultural differences and expectations,” Crowley says. “In Hawai’i, you won’t need to pay for all of your experts to travel too far. Many of them are already there.”
Interested in learning more about Hawai’i and how it can help expand your reach? Click here for more information on how the destination can create a positive impact for your organization and your attendees.