Meeting planners get taste of 'aloha' spirit

HONOLULU -- The American Society of Association Executives' (ASAE) meeting at the Hawaii Convention Center here this summer could spark an increase in convention business as early as next year, said tourism officials.

More than 4,000 members traveled to Honolulu -- and between 20% and 50% of them will book future meetings in Hawaii, said ASAE president and CEO John Graham. Over the next five years, that could translate into $1.3 billion for the islands.

This upsurge in convention business "is going to provide a huge boost to our economy in the years to come," said Rex Johnson, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

An estimated $10 million was infused into Hawaii's economy over the three-day meeting, said Graham.

He added that many people view Hawaii "as maybe too far to go" but predicted the meeting would show planners it's a "doable destination."

The ASAE is a national organization that represents 10,000 associations, according to ASAE chairman Red Cavaney.

The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau dominated the ASAE trade show with a display featuring the state's culture, arts and meetings facilities.

In addition to showcasing the 5-year-old, $350 million Hawaii Convention Center, the city went all out to make the meeting planners feel welcome, with hula performances and Sunday brunch on the beach, said Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris.

Harris also reminded meeting planners that Honolulu has 30,000 hotel rooms within a one-mile radius of the convention center.

To contact reporter Katherine Nichols, send e-mail to [email protected].

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