Mayor Carvalho Bolsters Japan Ties

One of my favorite movies is Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii. In its picturesque depiction of early 1960s Hawaii, you can see the dominance of sugar and pineapple and a nascent tourism industry on the island landscape. The Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, which concluded Oct. 1, again brought together these two historic mainstays of our island economy in a way that demonstrated the modern-day synergy between the two.

The festival was chaired by noted chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong, and starred 30 internationally renowned chefs and their local peers in a celebration of their culinary creations and their use of the wealth of farm products and seafood found in Hawaii.

Our agricultural industry, customarily low-key about its contributions, did a remarkable job in helping to contribute the bulk of the products used by the chefs: local beef, abalone, shrimp, tilapia, greens, tomatoes, onions, mangoes, passion fruit and even quail found their way to the plates of foodies.

Yamaguchi and Wong saw fit to designate beneficiaries for the festival’s proceeds who have contributed to the growth of Hawaii’s food scene and to tourism. The first is the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation, which promotes agriculture through research, education and outreach. The second is the culinary program at Kapiolani Community College, which continues to produce chefs and travel-related professionals who fill the ranks of the industry. The college is turning the abandoned Cannon Club, on the slopes of Diamond Head, into real-world training site for its students.

As the emcee at the festival’s closing night, I posed this question to the 1,000plus in attendance on the Great Lawn of Hilton Hawaiian Village, “Hana hou?” The resounding “yes” told me this could become an annual tradition and a terrific means of showcasing our locally grown and produced commodities and foods, solidifying our reputation for exceptional cuisine and strengthening our appeal to visitors.

On the heels of the festival, Garden Island foodies and visitors were exposed to the farm-to-table flavors of Kaua’i at “It’s A Wrap,” which was held Sept. 21 at Kaua’i Marriott. Organized by Sandi Kato-Klutke, head of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association’s Kaua’i chapter, it featured Garden Isle farmers, Kaua’i Marriott Chef Guy Higa and others in a showcase of locally grown products and medium to demonstrate the strong link between the visitor industry and agriculture.

The aforementioned events succeed because they’re promoted and publicized. That’s why it was good to see Kaua’i Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. hitting the road to promote the Garden Island.

The mayor made a whirlwind trip to Japan to cement relations with sister-city Iwaki City and to promote tourism. In addition to a full slate of ceremonial events, the mayor’s packed agenda included stops at the Japan Association of Travel Agents’ huge exhibition, talks with news media representatives, presentations of donations from Kaua’i to disaster victims and a number of tourismpromotion activities.

Having traveled with Mayor Carvalho on previous promotions, I can attest to the importance of public officials representing their cities or nations. Hawaii officials are always welcome in Asia, and we’ve done our best to represent our state and the visitor industry during these tours, as I know Mayor Carvalho did during his sojourn (maybe even singing a song or two to woo the audience).

These trips bolster existing markets and open new ones, and it’s vital that we continue to show our appreciation and our faces to our overseas partners.

Viewed separately, these events were all successful. But taken together, each is like another stone in the solid rock wall that is our tourism industry, each one supporting and building, in its own way, an industry that continues to succeed in one of the toughest and most competitive industries in the world.

MUFI’S VISITORHEROES
Marc Bennor

Position: Director of Fun
Location: Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas

Who wouldn’t want to be director of fun for the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas? Maybe not if you knew how hard Marc Bennor works. As director of fun he created and then taught a novel summer fitness program for teen guests. He and another manager developed a guest satisfaction program that resulted in a marked improvement in guests’ happiness with their stays. Marc devised a system to track pool towels, resulting in losses being cut from 300 to 50 a month, a huge savings.

He helped revitalize a department where morale was flagging. He’s always willing to take on extra responsibilities, and shows up before sunrise if one of his staff members is out to ensure the resort is ready for its guests. Marc’s motto is, “You have the opportunity to make a lasting impression,” which he does with guests and co-workers alike, who are impressed with his outgoing personality and unfailing passion to help.

Marc also serves as emcee at Relay for Life and coaches Pop Warner football.

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