Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More Visitors, More Money? Um...No.

I really wanted this to be a win/win story but please take from it what you will.  After what seems like FOREVER, it's been predicted that Hawaii visitor arrivals and spending will continue to increase throughout the rest of the year, marking a sure sign of steady economic recovery.  Hallelujah!

The Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) has estimated that total visitor arrivals to Hawaii are expected to climb 2.6% this year to 6.7 million based on stronger-than-expected international arrivals logged in the first quarter. With a combination of longer stays and higher average daily spending in the first few months of the year, this has boosted the state’s forecast for visitor expenditure growth by 4.9% to $10.6 billion in 2010, DBEDT said. 

With news like this, you would think that Hawaii residents would be rejoicing! But despite the optimistic visitor numbers, DBEDT expects hourly wage and salary jobs this year to lag behind economic recovery, not surprising really as wages in Hawaii have always been low, and many people work more than one job just to make rent each month.  Combine that with a very competitive job market (and a tough one to get into if you are not Hawaiian) and it still seems like there are many challenges ahead.

So, the good news is that more people are traveling.  Yay.  The bad news is that travel costs are likely to go back up (no more last minute cheap deals to Hawaii) and Hawaiian workers are not reaping much of the benefit as tourism starts to pick up in their backyard.  Ugh, supply and demand can work in strange ways.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Last of the Lei at HNL International

It was announced late last week that the Hawaii Tourism Authority had cut the $450,000 it set aside for greeters at Honolulu International Airport.

Honolulu was the last of the state’s major airports to have the song and hula programs that were first introduced three years ago to make positive impressions on arriving and departing visitors, and now, the Tourism Authority has decided to allocate that money to its airline development program. It will use the money to support cooperative programs with airlines designed to sustain or increase air seats to Hawaii.

Reviews for the Lei greeting program have always been wonderful.  However, due to budget restrictions (isn't it always about the money), the Tourism Authority was forced to cut funding for greetings contractors at airports on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island last fall.

This is a real shame for Honolulu International Airport.  Some of my fondest memories in Hawaii are of arriving at the airport and being given a beautiful flower lei - although I must admit it was never a random greeter at the airport!  The good news is that the lei stands at the airport where you can purchase fresh leis are still going strong.  If you are picking someone up from the airport, be sure to check out the beautiful hand-made leis and surprise your guest with some Hawaiian tradition and a warm aloha.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Get Your DVR Ready for Hawaii Five-O!

There has been a lot of talk recently about a remake of the classic series "Hawaii Five-O" and on Monday the news was confirmed for real! CBS has picked up the reboot of “Hawaii Five-O” for the fall television season, and its one that will be on my must-watch list!

And great news for the Hawaiian economy - the new version of the network’s classic cop drama that ran for 12 years, from 1968 to 1980, will be filmed entirely in Hawaii.

When I hear that Aussie stars are cast in American shows it makes me a little nervous, purely from an accent standpoint (we have all heard Nicole Kidman and Sam Worthington mix up their voices from time to time). The show has cast Australian actor Alex O’Loughlin as detective Steve McGarrett and “Lost” alumnus Daniel Dae Kim as Chin Ho Kelly. The cast also includes Scott Caan from “Oceans Eleven” as detective Danny Williams, “Battlestar Galactica” alum Grace Park as Kona Kalakaua, and actress Jean Smart of “24” and “Samantha Who” as Gov. Pat Jameson.  If you need to get the deets on these actors, head to IMDb for the full scoop.

The news about “Hawaii Five-O” comes as ABC prepares to wrap up its series “Lost” with a two-and-a-half-hour finale on Sunday. The castaway drama, which filmed in Hawaii for the past six years, has had an economic impact on the state’s economy worth hundreds of millions of dollars.  I'm not a "Lost" fan but my husband is; and from the amount of "Lost" viewing to be had this weekend I may need to get out of the house for most of the evening!  Bye-Bye "Lost", hello "Hawaii Five-O"!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Like Hawaiian Java? Head to the Ilikai Hotel in Honolulu!

Hawaii is home to some amazing coffee and this summer, A coffee-roasting company from the North Shore will open its first retail shop at the Ilikai Hotel.

Mt. Kaala Coffee is planning to open a shop on the lobby level of the Ilikai in a renovated unit that’s part of the Ilikai Shops. The new store will have a coffee counter, retail area and outdoor seating and will feature coffee drinks, baked goods from Signature Sweets in Wahiawa, retail products from the North Shore and Mt. Kaala’s roasted whole-bean coffee.  The roasting facility which is located in Waialua does roast beans from all over the world, including all the Hawaiian Islands where coffee is grown.

If you are heading to Hawaii this summer, be sure to stop by and check out the Hawaiian coffee - although you may want to have an iced coffee at that time of the year!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Teddy's Bigger Burgers - Store No. 4

Although I am not a meat eater, I do eat the occasional cheeseburger from time to time (and bacon if I'm desperate).  The main reason that I don't eat a lot of meat is because I became a little too interested in where my food came from, and many books and movies later, I have sworn off meat thanks to current farming practices in the United States (I'm sure its the same in many other countries as well).  Anyway, if you are in Hawaii and are looking for a good burger, you now have another option with Teddy's Bigger Burgers set to open their 4th store on Oahu, in Moiliili, on May 31.  The store will be located at 2424 S. Beretania St. in the Rainbow Vista apartments complex.

Teddy’s currently has stores in Kailua, Hawaii Kai and Kapahulu as well as in Washington state and Tokyo, Japan. In addition, a Teddy’s Bigger Burgers franchise is expected to open on Maui by the end of this year.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Moo! Milk Production is Up!

With the Hawaiian Islands being pretty small in size, I bet you didn't know that Hawaii has their own dairy farms!  One of the things that people always talk about is the cost of milk in Hawaii being so high, and although there are about 15 dairy farms in Hawaii, much of the milk is still imported.  The good news for Hawaii farmers however is that Hawaii milk production increased 15% in 2009 - which is the first time in 11 years the state has seen a year-over-year production increase, according to a report recently released by the USDA. In 2009, Hawaii’s total milk production was 21.3 million pounds, and milk sales increased 38% from the previous year to $7.5 million. That's a lot of milk!

When you visit Hawaii and you are in the ABC Store looking for milk, look out for Hawaii's Fresh Milk and milk from Meadow Gold Dairies of Honolulu - they are the two main labels you are likely to find.  I hadn't thought about it before but I'm sure the local milk tastes better than the imported milk - next time I visit I may have to do a taste test and find out!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Everyone Likes Lava

Iceland is not the only place that you can witness a lava eruption. The breakout of lava at Kalapana on the Big Island over the last week has caused a surge in visitors looking to get some snapshots to add to their vacation album.  While seeing lava flow in all it's glory is amazing, its not something that we can control.  One day, the lava may be flowing for all to see; the next day, not so much. 

Since last week the parking area at the end of Highway 130 has seen large crowds - all hoping to see the volcano in all its glory, but unfortunately Madame Pele has her own agenda.

Officials had to close a portion of the access road after lava crawled over the pavement. But for many, this has brought frustration as it can be hard to see the lava from a few hundred yards away.  While it may sound tempting to get close to the lava, a reminder that its HOT!  And those who trespass risk more then a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail. 

If you are in the area why not call the Lava Viewing Hotline prior to your visit to check on conditions?  The number is (808) 961-8093. By calling in advance you can check to see whether it's worth the long drive to witness a lava eruption, or not, as the case may be.  During my visit to the Big Island, I was lucky enough to see lava flowing into the ocean, but was never close enough to witness the amazing red glow.  If you really want a birds-eye view, why not head out in a helicopter or charted boat?  Talk about an amazing experience.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Le Creuset - Time to Cook

In a former life I used to work at a seafood cooking school in Sydney - you may have heard of it (Sydney Seafood School @ Sydney Fish Market).  Before I started working at the cooking school I was also studying Hospitality Management at college, as I always dreamed of building my career in the hospitality industry.  While my career path has taken a slight turn, my love of food and cooking has never left my side, and when I received an email from Jason at CSN, I was so excited.  Thanks to the team at CSN I have the opportunity to select a product from one of their many different stores and write a review of the product.  I have decided to go with a Le Creuset stock pot, because not only do I love cooking soups, I love to cook in advance so that I have meals prepared during the week.  I can't wait to cook my first soup with the stockpot and will be sure to post photos of me cooking up a storm in the kitchen.

If you haven't heard of CSN Stores, they have over 200 online stores and sell anything you could ever want or need for your home, from kitchen appliances to recessed lighting!  I hope to get my lovely Le Creuset pot in the next week or so...stay tuned!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hilton Hawaiian Village - Even More Rooms!

I am still having trouble deciding on where to stay during my next trip to Hawaii.  We visit Hawaii so often that it makes sense to find a hotel chain and stick to it. We haven't done that in the past because we haven't found a hotel that we really loved, but we are getting close to making that decision.

Speaking of hotels, the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki has just announced that they will begin construction on two new vacation timeshare towers in 2013, launching an aggressive expansion that will add 550 units to the resort’s timeshare holdings by the end of the decade.  They will also be doing some renovations to the existing Rainbow Tower as well as building some new swimming pools (finally an adults only pool!) as well as a new bar/restaurant.

The Hilton Hawaiian Village’s total lodging capacity currently comprises 3,627 guest rooms, timeshare units and suites in seven towers.  The good news is that these new towers will create more jobs and offer more options for visitors to the Islands.  The photo below (courtesy of Hilton Hawaiian Village) shows the entire site with the new towers once they have been built.

I love the location of the Hilton; its next door to the Hale Koa hotel which has my favorite bar - The Barefoot Bar! Can't wait to see Rex and crew when we go back!