Catching Up With Oahu's Tourism Scene

Travel Agent's New York offices were visited by several representatives of Oahu's travel scene this week, who brought us up to date on what's happening on the island.

Mari Takamura of the Oahu Visitor's Bureau said that the island's visitor numbers were up this past year, especially from China and Korea. 2012 seems poised to be a strong year from January and February's numbers, she added, and most hotels are selling out even before the high season officially begins.

June Cappiello of the Kahala Hotel and Resort said that the hotel is seeing a marked increase in group and family travel, and is taking steps to suit the needs of their new clientele. For example, a kids buffet is now set up on a surfboard (!) lower than the main table so that kids can more easily choose their meals. Outside, games have been set up on the lawn so that younger guests can go play while Mom and Dad finish their dinner. The hotel, Cappiello noted, is specifically focusing on the family market and working to become a truly family friendly property.

Raymond Magalei of the The Polynesian Cultural Center said that the Center has launched a new agent site,, with special incentives for agents and their clients. In order to teach kids about the native cultures of Polynesia, the new Go Native program lets kids climb trees or learn how to paddle an outrigger canoe, often with their parents at their side.

Hawaii's culinary scene is also growing in leaps and bounds. The Kahala's annual food and wine festival is a major event, and this August will see a tribute to Julia Child at the hotel, with cooking classes and special menus. Locally sourced food is a priority at the hotel, Cappiello said, and the chefs are working to adapt their recipes to suit dietary restrictions. (For example, they recently created a lactose- and gluten-free pizza for a young guest who had never been able to eat the favorite food of kids everywhere.) In April, the Spam Jam Street Festival will celebrate one of the island's favorite foods, and Alan Wong will host the Taste of the Nation festival. In Ko'Olina, the annual food and wine festival will extend to a fourth day this year. At the PCC, meanwhile, the newly reopened restaurant offers a range of Polynesian cuisine—"Different cultured come together on the plate," Magalei said. And the Ala Moana center has a farmers market every week that has become a popular gathering event for foodies and fans of Hawaiian cuisine.

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