Year’s largest convention is first fruit of center’s focus on Asia
An annual engineering conference will bring $23.6 million in spending to Hawaii
Starting tomorrow, 10,000 scientists, engineers and other attendees will showcase the latest in microwave technology at the Hawaii Convention Center.
The six-day convention -- the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' annual International Microwave Symposium -- is the first fruit of the center's effort to boost attendance by attracting business and convention travelers from Korea and China.
It is the largest event, by number of delegates, booked this year at the center, which estimates statewide spending as a result of the conference at $23.6 million. It is the second of three events the IEEE will hold there in 2007.
The convention center is hoping to capitalize on Hawaii's geographic location to position itself as a meeting place for visitors from Asia and the U.S. and help turn around slumping state visitor numbers.
"The technological meetings are definitely internationally based," said June Matsumoto, director of international sales for the Convention Center. "The ability to be able to offer access for these U.S. associations to their counterparts in Asia is very, very key in being able to fully promote Hawaii's geographic advantage."
Relaxed visa restrictions are making Hawaii more of a possibility for Chinese and Korean travelers. In Asia, the center has historically focused on Japan, Matsumoto said.
The center is working to promote Hawaii as a cultural comfort zone for Asian visitors, Matsumoto said, as well as playing off the state's aloha spirit and scenery.
And for Hawaii, Matsumoto said conventions like the one starting tomorrow help offset the perception that business events here are thinly disguised vacations.
"When it's an entity that's known worldwide as being one of these authoritative organizations or a key organization within a certain trade or medical area, that also becomes the reason for the travel and that also lends it credibility," she said.
Wayne Shiroma, a University of Hawaii electrical engineering professor who worked for nine years to organize the conference, said he was approached by the IEEE to bring the convention to Hawaii because of its destination appeal and proximity to Asia's expanding microwave market.
"That kind of technology -- microwaves, cell phones, wireless PDAs, laptops -- that market is just taking off in Asia right now, particularly in Korea and China," he said.
The number pre-registered delegates is fairly typical for IEEE conferences, which have never been held outside the mainland, he said. However, 1,067 technical papers were submitted -- the second-highest in the conference's 50-year history. Around 30 percent were submitted from the U.S., and another 30 percent from Asian countries, including Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan, with the balance from European countries and Canada.
"People want to come to Hawaii, and that's why they are submitting papers in near-record numbers," he said.