Using TV Golf To Promote Hawaii

The annual Sony Open in Hawaii tees off Jan. 9 for a week’s worth of great golf competition. Featuring 144 of the world’s top professionals, the Sony Open is an eagerly anticipated event on Hawaii’s sports calendar and one of the most prestigious sporting events in the islands.

The Sony Open is also an example of sports tourism at its finest.

The tournament is a showcase of golf in Hawaii. While the Sony Open is held at Waialae Country Club on Oahu, it reinforces the state’s reputation for outstanding golf courses, from Princeville on Kaua’i to Kapalua on Maui to Mauna Kea on Hawaii Island.

Golf is a very popular activity for visitors and residents both, and is a key attraction for our travel industry.

It no doubt draws many visitors, who come to watch the professionals in action and enjoy some golf of their own while they’re here.

The televised Sony Open brings warm, beautiful Hawaii into the dens and living rooms of 450 million homes in roughly 200 countries, including China, according to the tournament organizers. The value of this media exposure is estimated at $100 million in marketing and related economic benefits that help the visitor industry and our general economy.

The tournament has other direct benefits for us.

In cooperation with Friends of Hawaii Charities, which is a nonprofit organization headed by business and community leaders, Sony Open in Hawaii generates millions of dollars that underwrite programs and services for women, children and youth, and the needy. The Friends join with Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the wellknown local philanthropic organization, in this partnership.

Sony Open proceeds total more than $1 million a year, which then go to more than 100 nonprofit groups.

Since 1999, the event and the groups have collaborated to raise more than $11 million for 350 local charities.

An event of this scale takes the involvement of many. I recall when, as mayor, that the City and County of Honolulu was called upon to assist with providing more public parking. We accomplished this feat by enlisting the kokua of park-users to forgo their designated park dates and used those areas for parking. Friends of Hawaii Charities then made a donation to improve one of these heavily utilized public facilities.

We’ll be enjoying the Sony Open on television or in person. We should also recognize that the tournament requires an army of local volunteers, the support of government and business, and the cooperation of neighbors and so many others.

These contributions, however, are handsomely rewarded in the money raised for our local charities, the media exposure we enjoy, and the impact on our tourism economy.

MUFI’S VISITOR HEROES

Ben Simao has been called “one of the finest front desk agents anywhere,” a title attributable to his terrific attitude as an invaluable member of the Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club staff.

Ben knows guests by name, pitches in to help the safety and security team, and responds to any emergency. He’s quick to respond to guests’ requests, going so far as to personally drive them to an activity. Ben is active in the Visitor Industry Charity Walk and Children’s Miracle Network, volunteers to dress as the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus and has been a kahili bearer for May Day.

Ben Simao’s co-workers say he is “a caring soul with a joyous heart,” exemplifying Marriott’s philosophy of taking good care of employees so they take good care of their guests.

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