Hawaii APEC Puff and Con

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BY J. ARTHUR RATH III – “Had a friend who was a trapeze artist,” I told Coconut Willee.

“He turned every flop into a success.  Let’s talk about the message Hawaii delivered with its Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit:


“This a place where serious meetings can be held.”

Fidgeting, Willee replied: “Explain that to local folks expecting to do business. Local leaders forecast 20,000 APEC visitors were coming who would add $165 to the economy. And 2,000 journalists would arrive who would publicize Hawaii as a great get-away destination.”

He continued: “And what do these same folk tell us now? “Well it drew far less than were anticipated. But APEC likely gave Hawaii something of more value: a new image.”

“Yea, Willee, and an image may be false or true.”

Then I explained, “However, state spokespeople say APEC showed Hawaii can handle a conference of global political and business leaders. It dispelled a common notion that Hawaii is no place for serious meetings.  “Hawaii leaders urged forgoing local aloha shirt garb in favor of business suits, explaining:  ‘A photo of President Obama and leaders from 21 nations suited up would help to advance the notion that Hawaii IS a good place for cerebral stuff.'”

“What’s not serious about aloha shirts?” Willee asked. His everyday attire consists of T-shirts, often with a catchy phrase such as “Hang Loose.” Aloha shirt is real dress-up for him.

I told him about outcomes now surfacing.  State figures show visitor arrivals to Hawaii in November through Sunday were up by only 0.4 percent, or 1,112 people, compared with the same 13-day period last year.  Only about half the expected journalists, 1,200, covered the summit.

“Before APEC we were being given projections of  $120 million in direct spending and 20,000 additional visitors.

“Lieutenant-Governor Schatz now suavely explains that short-term economic gain was not the primary benefit of hosting APEC. The goal was to strengthen our image as an attractive place to do business.”

“Going along with that idea, our former mayor, now in the lodging business, calls it ‘a long-term investment.'”

Willee was taking all this in, so I told him that a local political writer stated President Obama “takes pride in his Hawaiian roots.”

“I think the local paper might better have said ‘Hawaii’ roots, but they are preservers of local language, Vox Populi etymologists.”

Willee was startled: “I don’t know about ‘etymologist’ stuff–are those bugs? So when they find his birth certificate, its going to say he’s ‘Hawaiian?’ He’s da kine, then?'”

“That’s just what a heavy-fingered, light-hearted local reporter wrote.

“Leaders rushed needed cosmetic treatment, hustled homeless out of sight, and all this attention maybe this led some of us to< believe APEC was a quick financial kick.”

Waiting for outcomes from politicians reminds me of the old Joe Hill Wobblies song, I encouraged Willee to sing with me:

You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky bye and bye.