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Shanghai splash


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POSTED: Sunday, May 02, 2010

 

SHANGHAI » Hawaii is part of what some people are calling China's coming out party—the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

China is spending an estimated $4.2 billion on the expo, which organizers say will attract 70 million visitors during its six-month run. It opened yesterday and is a mixture of amusement park, marketing opportunity and demonstration of national pride for more than 190 participating countries.

Hawaii is spending about $450,000 to be part of the U.S. pavilion, the state Tourism Authority's largest and most expensive single promotion ever for Hawaii in China.

For its money, the state will be able to tout its tourism attractions on a video that plays on a big screen above the crowds as they wait to get into the pavilion, sometimes for hours. Hawaii is also part of an exhibit inside the pavilion.

And the U.S. pavilion will host "Hawaii Week" June 6-12 and a "Hawaii Day" June 8.

Gov. Linda Lingle will travel here along with entertainers from Tihati Productions, Jeff Person and Blaine Kia's hula halau, who will perform on stages around the pavilion. During the week, all the U.S. pavilion workers will be dressed in aloha wear provided by Hilo Hattie's.

"There is huge market potential," said Brenda Lei Foster, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai.

Hawaii's debut on the big screen at the U.S. pavilion is delayed, however. The Hawaii video didn't play yesterday, the opening day of the expo, apparently because of a mix-up over the format of the video.

Images of the state still can be seen at the pavilion. Hawaii scenes are part of a Dell Computer commercial that plays on the big screen, and the Hawaii tourism video can be seen at an exhibit inside the pavilion. Hawaii also is part of a video called "American Spirit" that all visitors see when they enter.

Hawaii's major push at the expo is intended to build market demand and to make an impression on people such as Xia Wei Yi, 19, a volunteer at the U.S. pavilion, who hopes to get a master's degree in business administration.

"In time, if I earn enough money, it's my dream to travel to Hawaii," she said. "We know the surf and sea and the beautiful pictures."

It had been hoped that Hawaii's investment in the expo would coincide with the start of direct flights offered by Hainan Airlines between Beijing and Honolulu and help promote the service, said David Uchiyama, the Hawaii Tourism Authority vice president for brand marketing. Now the HTA's goal is to stimulate demand to help persuade Hainan to start the service soon.

"We want to prepare the market and position Hawaii," Uchiyama said.

"Hawaii is very suitable for Chinese tourists," said David Sun, the Shanghai-based marketing director for Hawaii Tourism China, the company that has a contract with the Hawaii Tourism Authority to run Hawaii's tourism marketing offices in Beijing and Shanghai. "They (Chinese consumers) don't know that there's a lot of things they can experience (in Hawaii)."

The 30-second Hawaii video playing at the U.S. pavilion features volcanoes, waterfalls, surfers, hula dancers and the natural scenic beauty of the islands, but with English and Chinese characters.

During Hawaii week, the HTA will host top tourism executives in China at a VIP reception at the expo. Journalists also will be invited to events in hopes of generating stories about Hawaii.

"It (the expo) is more than marketing," said Marsha Wienert, the state tourism liaison. "It's also diplomatic and relationship building. So much in any foreign country, your ability to do business in the area is based on relationships. Being a part of their expo reinforces and solidifies the commitment Hawaii has to those relationships."

Also participating are the states of Texas and Tennessee, and the cities of San Antonio, Texas; Chicago and San Francisco.

Foster said bigger states and cities are able to spend more money than Hawaii, but Hawaii has a brand advantage.

Sun said Hawaii is in every Chinese textbook because Sun Yat-sen, the founder of modern China, went to Iolani School and because of movies and television shows such as "Hawaii Five-0" and "Magnum, P.I."