Honolulu Festival to draw 4,700 visitors


POSTED: Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hawaii's visitor industry is anticipating a soft March; however, the 15th annual Honolulu Festival is expected to provide a significant midmonth boost in arrivals.

The three-day celebration, which will take place March 13 to March 15, is expected to bring some 4,700 visitors from the mainland, Japan and the Pacific Rim who will spend $10 million in the local economy, said Keiichi Tsujino, president of the Honolulu Festival Foundation.

“;This is a nice boost for our visitor industry at a time when we need it the most,”; Tsujino said.

Attendance events like the Honolulu Festival, which bring visitors to Hawaii just to participate in the event, are important to Hawaii's visitor industry, said David Carey, president and chief executive of Outrigger Enterprises Group.

“;This is the kind of event that helps fill rooms as well as provide an opportunity for local people to enjoy and learn about the arts and culture of the Pacific and Asia,”; Carey said. “;We need more of these kinds of events in Hawaii.”;

The festival was founded in 1995 to help promote cultural understanding and harmony between the people of Hawaii and the Asia-Pacific. While the Hawaii Tourism Authority provides about 10 percent of the festival's funding, the bulk comes from private sponsorships, said Tatsuo Watanabe, the Honolulu Festival Foundation's secretary.

Over the years, the festival has brought positive economic impacts to Honolulu, said Kirk Caldwell, managing director of the City and County of Honolulu.

“;It totals hundreds of thousands of visitors and has generated hundreds of millions in revenue,”; Caldwell said.

This year's celebration will feature live musical and cultural performances as well as art exhibits from groups in Asia and the Pacific. Free festival events will be held at the Hawaii Convention Center, Ala Moana Shopping Center, Waikiki Shopping Plaza and Waikiki Beach Walk. The festival will conclude with a grand parade through the heart of Waikiki on the final evening. Among the highlighted performers will be the Obama Girls, from Obama, Japan, the fire-breathing dragon float, indigenous dancers from Alaska and performers from Australia. A complete festival lineup can be found at http://www.honolulufestival.com.

While all festival events are free, a friendship gala will be held on March 14 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Hawaii Convention Center to raise money for the festival foundation. Tickets for the gala are $85, which include access to live performances and Pacific Rim cuisine. The tax-deductible portion is $35. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Honolulu Festival hot line at 596-3327.