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Visitor Industry, Businesses and Residents Work Together to Formulate
20-Year Plan for Waikiki, Hawaii, the State's Tourism Hub

By Allison Schaefers, The Honolulu Star-AdvertiserMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Oct. 17, 2012--Waikiki will soon have a plan to shape its next two decades, a more attractive entryway and its own independently organized Technology, Entertainment, Design, or TEDx, conference.

Businesses, residents and others with a stake in the region, who gathered for a Waikiki 20/20 Conference on Tuesday at the Hawai'i Convention Center, are already off and running. The conference, which marked the first time since 1992 that the public and private sectors have met to plan for Waikiki on such a large scale, is expected to produce a plan next year, said Rick Egged, president of Waikiki Improvement Association, which presented the conference along with the Star-Advertiser.

Monthly forums, which will recap conference topics ranging from beach restoration to residential and business development, the tourism industry, homelessness and crime to public health and energy, will be used to develop the 20-year plan, Egged said. Dates, times and locations for the forums will be announced later.

Joe Toy, president and CEO of hotel consultancy Hospitality Advisors LLC, has been hired to write the plan. The process from conference to plan is expected to cost about $150,000, Egged said.

"This is only the beginning," he told conference attendees. "This conference is not the end. It was not the intention to have it solve all our problems here; it was intended to stimulate discussion."

In the next six months, Matt Gilbertson, an architect with MGA Architecture LLC and a member of the association's planning committee, also plans to start an international design competition to develop a distinctive gateway into Waikiki. Guidelines and rules are coming soon, Gilbertson said.

"Hopefully, we'll have the results of this competition about the same time as Waikiki's new plan," Gilbertson said. "We've talked about the need to better announce the arrival points into Waikiki for years. It seemed the right time to move forward."

Gilbertson also is organizing a 2013 TEDx Conference to piggyback on Waikiki 20/20.

"The idea behind TEDx is to bring up any ideas for Waikiki worth sharing," Gilbertson said. "I expect some of them will come from the discussions that started with Waikiki 20/20."

Waikiki 20/20 is timely and critical, said Richard Lim, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

While Waikiki covers less than one square mile, it is tremendously important to Oahu and to the state, Lim said.

"We all know it as a tourist mecca, but it is also home to a lot of our residents, a major economic engine for our state and a gateway for tourism," he said. "If you are wondering how important Waikiki is to the state, it accounts for 6.5 percent of the state's entire gross domestic product and 7.9 percent of our tax revenues."

Waikiki, home to about 23,000 people, also is the hub of the state's tourism industry, Lim said.

"It's an extremely important cultural and tourism asset," said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Waikiki's average daily census is 88,980 visitors, which makes up 47.9 percent of the state's daily tourist count, McCartney said. About 36.3 percent of all visitor accommodations in the state are in Waikiki, and the region is responsible for 40.8 percent of all tourism-related jobs, he said.


(c)2012 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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