Candidates Vow Tourism Support

KITV’s Paula Akana moderated the HLTA-sponsored Senate forum featuring (seated, from left) John Carroll, Ed Case and U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono. Photo from HLTA

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 (hawaiilodging.org) 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.

Joni Bostick

In 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.

MUFI’S VISITOR HEROES

Joni Bostick

Position: Revenue and Reservations Manager
Location: Aston Waimea Plantation Cottages

For Joni Bostick, the revenue and reservations manager for the Aston Waimea Plantation Cottages, going beyond what’s expected of her is “all in a day’s work.”

She is meticulous in keeping on top of every booking she makes for the historic hotel, whether it’s a room, meeting, wedding or group – and does so with “humility, grace and a smile,” says general manager Stephanie Iona. She’s top-notch in the technical aspects of her job, but it’s in her relationships with guests where Joni shines, seeing in each visitor the opportunity to share Hawaii’s beauty, culture and more. She befriended the young son of frequent guests, remembering his birthday and taking him on excursions. Joni will bring a cake to a guest celebrating a birthday, deliver sandwiches to late-arriving guests, and go out of her way to accommodate travelers, usually on her own time and at her own expense.

When not at work, Joni Bostick is busy serving her community through her volunteer contributions to the Visitor Industry Charity Walk, Waimea Town Celebration, Waimea Christmas Parade and Taste of Waimea.

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