China taps isle tourism skills
Dignitaries hope to develop a reciprocal relationship centered on the visitor industry
A delegation from China, which is expected to become the No. 1 tourist destination in the world by 2020, is expected to sign a culinary and hospitality training agreement today with Kapiolani Community College.
The training agreement would include administrators from the University of Hawaii system, KCC culinary and hospitality department representatives and students, as well as local hotels.
Dignitaries from China's Ministry of Education and its Higher Education Training Center, who arrived in Hawaii on Tuesday and plan to stay through Sunday, said they are interested in establishing ties with Hawaii to help prepare their visitor industry for the country's heavy growth in tourism.
China's tourism market, which has grown exponentially in the last several years, is expecting a surge of visitors for the 2008 Summer Olympics and for the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, said Daniel Leung, KCC's noncredit culinary tourism coordinator.
"They cannot train their work force fast enough," Leung said. Any training arrangements with KCC would be reciprocal since Chinese students and faculty could bring insight about Chinese culture and desires as well as unique culinary skills to Hawaii's visitor industry, he said.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Charles Lennox, a manager at Kahala Hotel & Resort, gave a tour of Hoku's Seafood Restaurant yesterday to visiting Chinese dignitaries Zhaoyuan Zhang and Linda Yun Lin.
"The potential for collaboration is very great," said Zhaoyuan Zhang, director of the China Higher Education Training Center, while touring the Kahala Hotel & Resort yesterday.
In recent years, China has reached tourism agreements with most countries and has become one of the largest importers and exporters of visitors, Zhang said. Only the United States and Canada continue to maintain stringent visitor restrictions, he said.
A partnership with Hawaii would enhance the thousands of university, college and vocational training programs that cater to the visitor industry already in China, he said.
"Hawaii is famous internationally for their service, especially in the culinary arts," Zhang said.
Hawaii also has an East-meets-West cultural advantage, said Carol Hoshiko, dean of KCC's hospitality, culinary and college advancement program.
"Hawaii is a melting pot. It's a place where many people from Asian countries feel comfortable coming to train," Hoshiko said.
KCC's 900 or so Hawaii-based students also would benefit from an international partnership with China, she said.
"The exchange would work both ways. It creates educational and job opportunities in Hawaii and in China for our students and faculty," Hoshiko said. "It also helps Hawaii keep the door open for tourism to and from China."
The Kahala Hotel & Resort is one of several Hawaii hotels that have expressed interest in becoming training sites for the program. Interns who are picked to work at the resort would receive a high level of training as well as a competitive edge in tourism's global job market, said Charles Lennox, food and beverage manager for the Kahala Hotel & Resort.
"People want to be associated with more internationally known properties because it helps them establish themselves in the world market," Lennox said. "Although the world is big, our business is very small and it helps to establish connections."
The training and educational exchange, which could begin as early as next summer, could link hundreds of students and faculty in Hawaii and China and solve work shortages in both countries, said Linda Yun Lin, executive director for International Cooperation at the China Higher Education Training Center.
"Our labor market is very similar to Hawaii's," Lin said. "We have a shortage in terms of higher-skilled employees, especially higher-level management."