Hawaii preps for 2002 ASTA congress

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HONOLULU -- It's never too early to plan ahead for the 2002 ASTA World Travel Congress, to be held at the Hawaii Convention Center here Nov. 3 to 8.

ASTA said it expects about 5,000 agents to attend, and according to ASTA vice president of meetings and conventions Liz Culkin, about 20 hotels in Waikiki will offer rooms for delegates.

Culkin said air discounts have not yet been set, nor has the registration fee for the congress or the price of hotels. All hotels in Waikiki are within walking distances of 15 to 30 minutes from the convention center. Transportation from hotels to the center also will be available.

Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau president Tony Vericella said that during the Asian Development Bank's convention earlier this year, 30% to 40% of the delegates staying in Waikiki walked to the convention center.

In addition, Waikiki is small enough that delegates can walk to a number of sites.

The city has nearly completed a rehabilitation project in Waikiki and has cleaned up the main beach area, Kuhio Beach.

Delegates also will find new facilities in Kapiolani Park on the edge of Waikiki, which also is within walking distance of most hotels.

The park, at the foot of the Diamond Head volcanic cinder cone, offers beach areas, an aquarium, a zoo, a new bandstand and plenty of grassy areas for strolling.

Visitors can take a walking tour of Waikiki, either by themselves or on a free, guided tour. Bronze surfboard-shaped markers denote historical sites on the route.

For the more adventurous, renting a car and driving around the island on an all-day excursion is another option.

Delegates will find that the rest of Oahu is very different from urban Waikiki. In fact, some of the more rural areas on the windward side of Oahu and on the north shore rival neighbor islands in natural beauty, beaches and hiking opportunities.

New to the congress in 2002 will be a full-day sightseeing option on any of the Hawaiian islands. The Island Experience fam tour is included in the registration fee. The tour will take place on Nov. 7 and will coincide with the beginning of the post-congress tours.

Also, agents who want to complete their Hawaii specialist programs offered by the HVCB and each individual island chapter will be able to finish the destination portion while they are here, Culkin said.

Vericella said the HVCB is working with ASTA to attract "the largest percentage of front-line agents that we can to the conference."

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