VASH Distributes Face Masks Across Big Island

With a $2,700 grant from Hawaii Tourism Authority, Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii (VASH) Hawaii Island has made and distributed 500 masks across the island to police officers and 160 to other non-profits. All masks were created with specs provided by Kaiser Permanente and made by volunteer seamstresses around the island.

The organization spent over 550 hours sewing and delivering these masks to the community.

Volunteer seamstresses include Garrett Hennings, Kristina Lilleeng, Patti Millington, Deborah Stern, Dede Sutherland, and Beckie Marshall. VASH also made and delivered over 160 for other non-profit organizations including, Full Life-Empowering People with Disabilities, Special Olympics-West Hawaii, and The Children’s Justice Center-Kailua-Kona. 

“We are proud to support our community partners during this difficult time,” said Rachelle Hennings, Executive Director for VASH, Hawaii Island. “We feel it’s important to help our first responders as they risk their lives every day to help the visitors and residents of Hawaii Island.”

To donate to VASH click here.

COVID-19: Special Alerts & Notices for Hawaii Islands

Hawai’i has a long tradition of welcoming visitors from around the world. The hookipa (hospitality) and Aloha Spirit that people feel as they explore our islands has become stuff of legends. At this time however, like many of you, we are focusing on the health and safety of our community, visitor industry employees, health care professionals and our healthcare system. As a small, remote island community, our residents are particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 crisis.

Hawai’i Governor David Ige has asked that you postpone your trips to Hawai’i to give us the opportunity to address this health crisis. To that end he has mandated a 14-day quarantine for all visitors and residents entering the state. In addition, the island mayors have over the past few days instituted home lockdowns except for essential personnel. Like all visitors to Hawai’i, we would like you to experience the best the islands have to offer. Now, unfortunately, is clearly not the time.

Mahalo and a hui hou (until we meet again).

Should I come to Hawai’i as planned?

  • No, not at this time.
  • Governor David Ige ordered all persons traveling to Hawaii (visitors and returning residents) to self-quarantine for 14 days following arrival. The state of Hawaii’s SAFE TRAVELS SYSTEM WEBSITE further explains the entrance and quarantine process.
  • The mandatory 14-day quarantine was expanded for air travel to include all inter-island passengers to further prevent the spread of COVID-19. These mandates will remain in place until further notice.
  • As this would mean that visitors would need to remain in their rooms for most or all of their vacation, travelers are strongly urged to postpone any trips to Hawaii.
  • For more information about statements issued by Governor Ige, CLICK HERE.
  • Four counties have issued more specific guidelines and directives including wearing of facial masks, curfews, closures of bars and clubs, limitation of restaurants to take-out, drive through and delivery.

What’s the situation in Hawai’i?

  • Hawaii has 584 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (Kauai – 21; Oahu – 385; Maui – 108; island of Hawaii – 64; Pending – 0; HI residents diagnosed outside of HI – 6).
    • Required Hospitalization – 55; Released from Isolation – 423
    • Hawaii deaths – 12 (as of 4/20/2020)

What Accommodations Are Closed or Closing? Hawai’i has a state-wide Stay at Home Order in place and non-essential businesses are closed. Short-term rentals (lodging that provide guest accommodations for less than 30 days other than hotels and motels) are considered non-essential and should not be operating.The following is a list of hotels that have already closed or will be closing this week; it is not complete as more announcements continue to be made. If you need further detail, please contact the property directly.


  • The Cliffs at Princeville
  • Club Wyndham Bali Hai Villas
  • Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
  • Hanalei Colony Resort
  • Kauai Coconut Coast at the Beachboy
  • Kauai Marriort Resort
  • Kauai Shores
  • Koa Kea Hotel & Resort at Poipu Beach
  • The Lodge at Kukuiula
  • The Point at Poipu
  • Pono Kai Condos
  • Princeville Resort
  • Sheraton Kauai Poipu (hotel)
  • Timbers Kauai Ocean Club & Residences
  • Whaler’s Cove in Poipu


  • Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach
  • Ambassador Waikiki Hotel
  • Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel
  • Aulani, A Disney Resort
  • Club Wyndham Royal Garden at Waikiki
  • Club Wyndham at Waikiki Beach Walk
  • Coconut Waikiki Hotel
  • Courtyard by Marriott Waikiki Beach
  • Disney Vacation Club
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Alana – Waikiki Beach
  • Four Seasons Resort Oahu
  • Hale Koa Hotel
  • Halekulani Hotel
  • Halepuna
  • Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki
  • Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort
  • Hilton Waikiki Beach
  • Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach
  • Ilima Hotel
  • The Kahala Hotel & Resort
  • Ko Olina Resort
  • The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel
  • OHANA Waikiki East by Outrigger
  • Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort
  • Paradise Bay Resort
  • Pearl Waikiki Hotel
  • Prince Waikiki
  • Princess Kaiulani
  • Queen Kapiolani
  • Ramada Plaza Waikiki
  • The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach (rental program)
  • Royal Hawaiian
  • Shell Vacation Club Waikiki Marina Resort at the Ilikai
  • Shoreline Hotel Waikiki
  • Turtle Bay Resort
  • Waikiki Beach Marriott
  • Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger
  • Waikiki Resort Hotel
  • Waikiki Sand Villa
  • Westin Moana Surfrider
  • Vive Hotel Waikiki


  • Andaz Maui
  • Destination Residences Hawaii, Inc.
  • Fairmont Kea Lani
  • Four Seasons Maui
  • Grand Wailea
  • The Hale Pau Hana
  • Hoolio House
  • Hotel Wailea Maui
  • Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa
  • Kaanapali Alii
  • Kaanapali Beach Hotel
  • Kauhale Makai, Village by the Sea
  • Lahaina Shores Beach Resort
  • Makena Surf, A Destination Residence
  • Mama’s Fish House Restaurant & Inn
  • Mana Kai Maui
  • Mana Kai Maui (CRH)
  • Maui Seaside Hotel
  • The Mauian
  • Montage Kapalua Bay
  • Napili Kai Beach Resort
  • Napili Shores Maui by Outrigger
  • Plantation Inn
  • Polo Beach Club, A Destination Residence
  • Polynesian Shores Condominium Resort
  • The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua
  • Royal Lahaina Resort
  • Sheraton Maui
  • Travaasa Hana
  • Wailea Beach Resort – Marriott
  • Wailea Beach Villas, A Destination Luxury Hotel
  • Wailea Ekahi Village, A Destination Residence
  • Wailea Ekolu Village, A Destination Residence
  • Wailea Elua Village, A Destination Residence
  • Wailea Grand Champion Villas, A Destination Residence
  • The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas
  • Westin Maui


  • Four Seasons Lanai at Koele
  • Four Seasons Resort Lanai
  • Hotel Lanai


  • Hotel Molokai
  • Ke Nani Kai Club

Island of Hawai’i

  • Aloha Vacation Cottages
  • Auberge Mauna Lani
  • The Bay Club at Waikoloa Beach Resort
  • Bay House Bed & Breakfast
  • Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel
  • Dragonfly Ranch: Healing Arts Center
  • Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
  • Hale Ohu Bed & Breakfast
  • Hawaii Island Retreat
  • Hilo Reeds Bay Hotel
  • Hilo Seaside Hotel
  • Hilton Waikoloa Village
  • The Inn at Kulaniapa Falls
  • Kane Plantation Guesthouse
  • King’s Land by Hilton Grand Vacations Club
  • Kohala Suites by Hilton Grand Vacations Club
  • Kohala Village Inn
  • Kona Seaside Hotel
  • Lava Lava Beach Club
  • Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
  • Mauna Lani Point
  • Ocean Tower by Hilton Grand Vacations Club
  • Old Hawaiian B&B
  • The Palms Cliff House Inn
  • Puakea Ranch
  • Royal Kona Resort
  • Shell Vacations Club Holua Resort at Mauna Loa Village
  • Waikoloa Beach Marriott (hotel and timeshare)
  • Waimea Gardens Cottage
  • Waipio Wayside Bed and Breakfast
  • Westin Hapuna
  • Wyndham Royal Sea Cliff (timeshare)

Are Restaurants and Bars Opened?

  • Bars, clubs and restaurants are closed. Restaurants that remain open are only offering take-out and/or delivery

What Attractions and Activities Are Closed?

  • Most visitor attractions are closed. Following is a partial list of closures by island:
    • Statewide
      • On March 20, the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) announced that all Hawaii state parks are now closed, in addition to commercial ocean and trail tours. This covers hundreds of tour operators, surf and standup paddle schools, sight-seeing, whale- watching and dinner cruises and any commercial operation in state ocean waters. Click HERE for more information.
      • Hawaii Federal Parks are closed.
      • Shopping centers across the state have closed or greatly reduced hours.
      • Many farmers markets statewide are closed


  • On March 18, City and County of Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell issued a supplemental proclamation mandating the closure of restaurants, parks and nightclubs for indoor service beginning 8:30 a.m. on Friday, March 20. Restaurant take-out, curb-side pick-up and delivery will be allowed. All core city services (first responders, emergency services, ocean safety, etc.) will remain open. Click here for more information.
  • Aloha Stadium (including swap meet)
  • Arizona Memorial
  • Atlantis Cruises
  • Atlantis Submarines
  • Bishop Museum
  • Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
  • Blue Note Hawaii
  • Chief’s Luau
  • Children’s Discovery Center
  • Diamond Head State Monument
  • Dole Plantation
  • E Noa Tours
  • Golf courses (municipal only)
  • Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
  • Hawaii Food Tours
  • Hawaii State Art Museum
  • Hawaii State Capitol
  • Hawaiian Mission Houses
  • Honolulu Museum of Art
  • Ice Palace
  • Iolani Palace
  • Japanese Cultural Center
  • Kapiolani Community College Farmers Market
  • Ko Olina Marina & Lagoons
  • Kualoa Ranch
  • Leahi Neighborhood Farmers Market
  • Manoa Heritage Center
  • Paradise Cove Luau
  • Pearl Harbor National Memorial (including Arizona Memorial and Battleship Missouri Memorial)
  • Polynesian Adventure Tours
  • Polynesian Cultural Center
  • Regal Theaters
  • Sea Life Park
  • Waikiki Aquarium
  • Wet n Wild Hawaii


  • Aqua Adventures
  • Atlantis Submarines
  • Award Winning Temptation Tours
  • Baldwin Home Museum
  • Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
  • Boss Frog’s Dive Surf
  • Captain Steve’s Rafting
  • Haleakala Eco Tours
  • Haleakala National Park
  • Hale Pai Printing Museum
  • Hana Highway (between Kapakalua Road and Hana Town is restricted to local traffic until further notice)
  • Hawaii Ocean Rafting
  • Hawaii Tasting Tours
  • Hawaiian Paddle Sports
  • Hike Maui
  • Hui Noeau
  • Island Star Sailing
  • Jungle Zipline
  • Kai Kanani Sailing Charters
  • Kai Kane, Inc.
  • Lahaina Cruise Co. Hawaii Ocean Project
  • Lahaina Dive and Surf
  • Lahaina Heritage Museum Guided Tours
  • Magic Merman
  • Maui Classic Charters
  • Maui Craft Tours
  • Maui Dive Shop
  • Maui Dragon Fruit Farm
  • Maui Molokai Sea Cruises
  • Maui Nui Botanical Garden
  • Maui Ocean Center
  • Maui Pineapple Tour
  • Maui Snorkeling Lani Kai
  • Maui Snorkel Charters
  • Maui Snorkel Tours
  • Maui Sunriders Bike Co.
  • Maui Surf Clinics
  • Maui Tropical Plantations
  • Maui Swap Meet
  • Maui Wine
  • Mendes Ranch
  • Mountain Riders
  • Mystery Maui
  • Nisei Veteran’s Memorial Center’s Education Center
  • Old Lahaina Luau
  • Pacific Jet Sports
  • Pacific Whale Foundation
  • Piholo Ranch Zipline
  • Polynesian Adventure Tours
  • Reline Rafting
  • Reef Dancer
  • Safari UnCruise
  • Scotch Mist Sailing Charters
  • Sea Monkey Private Charters
  • Shoreline Snuba
  • Skyline Maui
  • Strike Zone
  • Sunshine Helicopters
  • Teralani Sailing
  • Trilogy Excursions
  • Ultimate Whale Watch and Snorkel
  • Valley Isle Excursions
  • Warren & Annabelle’s
  • West Maui Parasail
  • Wo Hing Museum and Cookhouse
  • World Surf League
  • YMCA Camp Keanae


  • Molokai Outdoors
  • Tours to Kalaupapa National Historical Park

Island of Hawai’i

  • Effective March 21, all County of Hawaii (Hawaii Island) beach and shoreline parks, public shoreline access easements, public open space shoreline and coastal lands, undeveloped county shoreline and coastal lands are closed to all access and uses until further notice. All camping, pavilion and use permits associated with these affected lands are also cancelled or suspended until further notice. Click here for more information.
  • Anelakai Adventures
  • Atlantis Submarines
  • Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
  • Body Glove Cruises
  • Captain Zodiac
  • Donkey Mill Art Center
  • Fair Wind Cruises
  • Flumin’ Kohala Tour
  • Greenwell Farms
  • Haleo Luau at Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay
  • Hawaii Forest & Trail and Kohala Zipline
  • Hawaii Loa Luau at the Fairmont Orchid Hawaii
  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
  • Hula Kai
  • Imiloa Astronomy Center
  • Island Breeze Luau at Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel
  • Kahilu Theater events, canceled
  • Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park
  • Keauhou Boating
  • Kilauea Visitor Center
  • Lava Ocean Tours
  • Mauna Kea Visitors Center
  • OK Farms
  • Original Big Island Shave Ice
  • Polynesian Adventure Tours
  • Puuhonua O Honaunau
  • Skyline Hawaii
  • Sunlight on Water
  • UFO Big Island


  • On March 18, Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami issued an island wide nighttime curfew beginning Friday, March 20. The curfew will be in effect from 9 p.m. through 5 a.m. daily until further notice. Every individual within the County of Kauai must remain in their residence during these specified hours. Click here for more information.
  • Alii Kayaks
  • Blue Dolphin Charters
  • Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
  • Grove Farms Sugar Plantation Museum
  • Hawaii Alive! Luau Show
  • Holo Holo Charters
  • Kauai ATV
  • Kauai County Farm Bureau
  • Kauai Museum
  • Kauai Philippine Cultural Center
  • Kauai Sea Tours
  • Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
  • Kipu Ranch Adventures
  • National Tropical Botanical Gardens
  • North Shore Shuttle
  • Outfitters Kauai, Ltd.
  • Polynesian Adventure Tours
  • 6th Annual Bum Run Kauai
  • Smith’s Luau and Fern Grotto Tours; Wailua River Cruise
  • Sunshine Helicopters
  • Tasting Kauai

What public events have been cancelled or postponed? 


  • Daryl Hall and John Oates concert, postponed
  • Diana Ross concerts, canceled
  • East Honolulu Food and Wine Festival
  • Festival of the Pacific Arts & Culture (FESTPAC), postponed
  • First Hawaiian Bank Auto Show, canceled
  • Hapalua Half Marathon, postponed
  • Hilton Hawaiian Village Friday fireworks shows, canceled
  • Lantern Floating Hawaii, canceled
  • Lauryn Hill concert, rescheduled
  • Lea Salonga concerts, rescheduled
  • LPGA Lotte Championship, postponed
  • Mariah Carey Concert, postponed
  • Manoa Valley Theatre shows, canceled
  • Prince Kuhio Parade and Hoolaulea, canceled
  • Shinnyo Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony, canceled
  • Waikiki Spam Jam Festival, postponed


  • Daryl Hall and John Oates concert
  • East Maui Taro Festival, postponed
  • Hawaii Energy Conference, postponed
  • Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center
  • Kahului Saturday Swap Meet
  • Maui Arts & Cultural Center events
  • Maui Matsuri Japanese Festival
  • Maui Youth Rodeo Organization’s 5th Annual Spring Spectacular
  • Maui Sunday Market
  • Valley Isle Keiki Fest

Island of Hawai’i

  • Big Island Chocolate Festival, postponed
  • Ironman 70.3, postponed
  • Kuauli Pacific & Asia Cultural Festival, postponed
  • Lavaman Waikoloa Triathlon
  • Merrie Monarch Festival, canceled

Visitors Continue to Arrive in Hawaii

Yesterday, 404 people arrived in Hawaii including 89 visitors and 147 residents. In comparison, during this same time last year, nearly 30,000 passengers arrived in Hawaii daily, including residents and visitors.

The state’s mandatory 14-day self-quarantine started on March 26th for all passengers arriving in Hawaii from out of state. The quarantine order was expanded on April 1st to include interisland travelers.

This table shows the number of people who arrived by air from out of state yesterday and does not include interisland travel.

Hawaii Tourism Authority Awarding $3.5 Million to Support 124 Hawaiian Culture, Natural Resources and Community Programs in 2018

In keeping with its commitment to foster sustainable tourism in the Hawaiian Islands, the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) is providing funding of more than $3.5 million to 124 programs that are perpetuating Hawaiian culture, protecting natural resources and showcasing community events in 2018.Recipients of the funding are nonprofit groups, community organizations and individuals statewide who have demonstrated through proposals submitted to HTA their dedication to strengthen the enduring qualities of Hawaii’s legacy that distinguish the islands as a place to live and visit.

“Sustainable tourism starts at the community level and that’s the focus of our support for initiatives by groups and individuals who have pledged to make Hawaii a better place for future generations,” said George D. Szigeti, HTA president and CEO. “Collectively, these community-based programs will help manage tourism’s impacts by preserving the quality of life we treasure as residents through culture, the environment and the sharing of festivals and events ingrained in the traditions of Hawaii’s people.”

Funding is being provided to recipients on all islands for usage in 2018 as part of three HTA program categories: Kukulu Ola, Aloha Aina and Community Enrichment. HTA issued a request for proposals on June 21 with submittals from qualified applicants received by August 4.

  • A total of $1,240,000 is being awarded to 33 recipients that are perpetuating Hawaiian culture through HTA’s Kukulu Ola program. Awardees include community groups, practitioners, craftsmen, musicians and artists committed to strengthening a broader understanding and appreciation of Hawaiian culture through place-based activity engagement. Founded on the value of ma ka hana ka ike (in working one learns), the Kukulu Ola program assists recipients steeped in ike Hawaii to share within communities the Hawaiian values inherent in each respective practice.
  • A total of $1,150,000 is being awarded to 26 recipients that are helping to protect Hawaii’s natural resources through HTA’s Aloha Aina program. Focused on the lasting value of stewardship by responsible community-based entities that emphasize aina-kanaka relationships and knowledge, the Aloha Aina program supports efforts to manage, conserve and revitalize Hawaii’s natural resources and environment.
  • A total of $1,153,300 is being awarded to 65 recipients through HTA’s Community Enrichment program, which supports quality experiences created by communities to be shared with residents and visitors for their enjoyment. The Community Enrichment program invests in a diverse array of festivals, events and year-round programs in support of culture, education, health and wellness, nature, agriculture, sports, technology and voluntourism.

Click here for the listing of awardees receiving funding from HTA.

Mauna to Mauna Ultra Happening Now on the Big Island of Hawaii

Endurance Events USA is pleased to announce the inaugural edition of the Mauna to Mauna Ultra, which is happening now on the Big Island and will continue until May 20, 2017. This unique event is a 6-stage, 7 day, self-supported footrace, covering a cumulative distance of approximately 155 miles (250 km). The race is open to runners and hikers.

The 155-mile course route which began at Coconut Island in Hilo, winds through 11 of the world’s 13 climate zones, and finishes at Hapuna Beach. The course is taking participants up the world’s most massive mountain (Mauna Loa) and part way up the world’s tallest mountain (Mauna Kea), hence the name of the race: Mauna to Mauna. Participants are climbing more than 16,000 feet over the course of the race.

The field of participants from all over the world has come together for this challenging event, assuming the responsibility of carrying their own backpacks containing food, sleeping bag, mat and other mandatory equipment for the week.

Participants could elect to compete as individuals or teams. Participants were expected to possess basic outdoor survival skills such as familiarity with outdoor gear and backpacking. However, they were not required to possess any technical navigational or climbing skills to take part in the Event. Entrants from 20 countries are participating.

The event is sponsored by the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, Island of Hawai‘i Visitors Bureau and the County of Hawai‘i.

Please visit the event website at for more information. Follow the event on Facebook


Joint Statement on Hawai‘i Tourism Authority Audit

After reviewing testimony submitted on SR 27 and SCR 72, it is clear to both Senator Glenn Wakai (S Dist. 15 – Kalihi, Mapunapuna, Airport, Salt Lake, Aliamanu, Foster Village, Hickam, Pearl Harbor), Chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Tourism, and Technology and Representative Richard Onishi (H Dist 3 – Hilo, Keaau, Kurtistown, Volcano), Chair of the House Committee on Tourism, that there is overwhelming support for an audit of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA), with the duplicative nature of the proposed audit and the additional cost to perform the audit being the only points of contention.By law, the Office of the Auditor is required to audit HTA “at least every five years.”  The Office of the Auditor last audited HTA in 2013.

“It was never my intention nor that of Chair Onishi to subject HTA to unnecessary scrutiny or to incur unreasonable costs.  The resolutions were introduced to maintain public trust in HTA management and fiscal responsibility of our largest economic driver,” said Sen. Wakai.

“We have asked State Auditor Les Kondo to consider reporting his audit findings and recommendations to HTA and the legislature in early 2018.  The Auditor will provide an independent, objective, and nonpartisan review of HTA’s performance, including its management and expenditures of state funds.  Given the importance of tourism to our state, the audit will provide accountability to the legislature and the public that HTA is using its resources, including state funds, effectively, efficiently, and ethically to achieve its mission.  We are confident that the Auditor’s review will address the objectives set out in SR 27 and SCR 72, making it unnecessary to pass these resolutions,” said Rep. Onishi.

NELHA and Hawaii Tourism Authority Receives President’s “E” Award

Today in Washington, DC, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard joined U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker in awarding two ‪#Hawaii companies—Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority and Hawaii Tourism Authority—the President’s “E” Award.


The “E” Award is the highest honor the United States Government can give to an American exporter and export service provider. Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaiʻi Authority and Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority were two of 123 U.S. companies and organizations recognized at today’s ceremony.

This year marks the 54th anniversary of the “E” Awards presentation. For the first time in the award’s 54-year history, winners represent every U.S. state and the District of Columbia. Of this year’s 123 honorees, 105 are small and medium-sized businesses, and 64 firms are manufacturers.

In 1961, President Kennedy created the “E” Awards to recognize companies supporting the expansion of U.S. exports. The President’s “E” Award recognizes persons, firms, or organizations which contribute significantly in the effort to increase United States exports. The President’s “E Star” Award affords continuing recognition of noteworthy export promotion efforts. More information on the awards can be found at:

Miki Wakai Joins Hawaii Tourism Authority as Tourism Brand Manager

The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA), the state’s tourism agency, has hired Miki Wakai as a tourism brand manager.

Miki Wakai

Miki Wakai

Wakai will be overseeing Hawai‘i’s largest international market, Japan. She will work collaboratively with the HTA’s contractor, Hawai‘i Tourism Japan (HTJ), to ensure that marketing efforts are in line with the HTA’s strategic plan and drive demand and revenue for the state of Hawai‘i.

“Miki will be a tremendous asset in working with the Japan market and we are pleased to have her join our team,” said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the HTA. “Her experience will be valuable as we look at innovative ways to grow this mature market and reach two million Japanese visitors by 2016.”

Prior to joining the HTA, Wakai worked at the Hilton Grand Vacation Club overseeing the marketing and sales office in Hawai‘i while reestablishing its presence in Seoul, Korea. She was also responsible for identifying and marketing to potential customers visiting from Japan, Korea and the U.S. mainland for time share opportunities. Wakai received a Bachelor of Arts degree in international studies from Hawai‘i Pacific University.

Established in 1998, the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, the state’s tourism agency, is responsible for strategically managing tourism to optimize benefits for Hawai‘i that integrates the interest of visitors, the community and visitor industry. Tourism is our state’s leading economic driver and largest employer and the HTA continually works to ensure its sustainability well into the future. For more information on the HTA, please visit, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter (@HawaiiHTA).

Lt. Gov. Tsutsui to Lead New Sports Development Initiative

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today appointed Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui to spearhead the state’s Sports Development Initiative, which aims to coordinate efforts throughout Hawaii to build a thriving sports industry.

Shan Appointed

“This initiative will help to expand sports entertainment and participation opportunities in Hawaii, while also strengthening our visitor economy – particularly during the shoulder seasons when visitor arrivals are less robust,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “With Shan at the helm, we hope to take advantage of each island’s unique characteristics and bring athletic events that fit into their individual environments.”

While collaborating with the Hawaii Tourism Authority, University of Hawaii System, Stadium Authority, and private sports organizations, the initiative will identify, promote and engage opportunities to establish Hawaii as a premier sports destination for professional, amateur and youth athletics. The improvement of current facilities and development of world-class, state-of-the-art venues are also part of the initiative, intended to attract sporting events and athletic training opportunities not only on Oahu but throughout the state.


In addition to positive media exposure and awareness, professional sporting events have contributed well over $100 million to the state’s economy each year, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

“With this Sports Development Initiative, we have the opportunity to diversify our visitor industry and generate more revenue for our state,” Lt. Gov. Tsutsui said. “Everyone can benefit from this initiative – from keiki to kupuna. They will be able to either participate in or attend a variety of sporting events.”

“With this Sports Development Initiative, we have the opportunity to diversify our visitor industry and generate more revenue for our state,” Lt. Gov. Tsutsui said. “Everyone can benefit from this initiative – from keiki to kupuna. They will be able to either participate in or attend a variety of sporting events.”

Through this initiative, community involvement and outreach will expand with more mentoring, camps and clinics to develop young athletes using unique concepts, utilizing teams, players and participants. It will also encourage active lifestyles and improve the health of keiki and adults


Hawaii Tourism Authority Announces New Clients for China and Taiwan Markets – WHO Is JWI Marketing?

The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA), the state’s tourism agency, today announced the selection of Travel Link Marketing (TLM) and JWI Marketing (JWI) to provide destination representation services in the China and Taiwan markets respectively. Both companies will be responsible for promoting leisure and business travel to Hawai‘i.

Travel Link Marketing

TLM, a Chinese marketing company founded in 2005, has offices in Beijing, Shanghai,

Guangzhou and Chengdu. It has established an extensive network with thousands of tour operators and media outlets throughout China. TLM also owns Travel Link Daily, a well-recognized online traveltrade publication. Taipei-based JWI specializes in marketing representation, public relations, media creative development and distribution, event planning, promotions and more. They are a marketing firm with more than 120 employees in Taipei, Taiwan.

“We are excited to partner with TLM and JWI,”said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the HTA. “Both Mainland China and Taiwan have become important markets for Hawai‘i’s tourism economy with tremendous growth potential.  With the commitment and expertise of these two companies, we’re confident they will be able to further cultivate these emerging markets for Hawai‘i.”

The HTA’s current contractor, Aviareps Marketing Garden, will manage the China and Taiwan contract through Dec.31, 2013 with TLM and JWI’s contract commencing Jan. 1, 2014. Aviareps Marketing Garden has represented Hawai‘i in China, Taiwan and Korea since 2004, and will continue to manage the Hawaii Tourism Korea contract from Jan. 1, 2014.

“We want to extend a sincere mahalo to Aviareps Marketing Garden for promoting Hawai‘i as a premier destination for leisure and business travel in China and Taiwan. Their hard work and contributions to Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i’s visitor industry has helped to elevate Hawai‘i’s presence in the two regions,” added McCartney.


Hawai’i Tourism Authority Announces New Tourism Brand Manager

The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA), the state’s tourism agency, has hired Laci Goshi as a tourism brand manager.

Laci Goshi

Laci Goshi

Goshi will be overseeing Hawai‘i’s core North America market, including the U.S. and Canada. She will work collaboratively with the HTA’s contractor for North America, the Hawai‘i Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) to drive demand and ensure marketing efforts are in line with the HTA’s strategic plans.

Prior to joining the HTA, Goshi was the contract sales manager at Aqua Hotel & Resorts where she helped to promote and market the 23 hotels on six of the Hawaiian Islands. She was also the sales manager at the Pacific Beach Hotel where she worked directly with wholesalers in the U.S., Canada and Australia markets.

“We are pleased to welcome Laci to the HTA ‘ohana,” said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the HTA. “She brings a wealth of experience in the visitor industry and marketing the Hawaiian Islands to the North America region.”

Angela Rodriguez, the former brand manager for North America, is the HTA’s new communications and tourism brand manager, responsible for developing strategies to provide the community, industry partners, key stakeholders and government officials with a better understanding and appreciation of Hawai‘i’s visitor industry.

Established in 1998, the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, the state’s tourism agency, is responsible for strategically managing tourism to optimize benefits for Hawai‘i that integrates the interest of visitors, the community and visitor industry. Tourism is our state’s leading economic driver and largest employer and the HTA continually works to ensure its sustainability well into the future. For more information on the HTA, please visit, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter (@HawaiiHTA).

Volcano Art Center Introduces Summer Sunset Hula

“Hula Arts at Kilauea” program erupting in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Volcano Art Center is about to turn up the heat at Kilauea Volcano. Starting this Friday, May 24 and running monthly through August, “Sunset Hula” performances by Halau Kahula O Nawahine Noho Pu`ukapu will light up the pa hula (stone platform) near the VAC Gallery in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Sunset Hula

Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanos, has been continuously erupting lava and thrilling visitors and park staff following a major activity surge in March 2008. A vigorous, towering plume of volcanic gas churns out of Halema’uma’u Crater throughout the day and as the sun sets, the plume’s reflection of the lava glowing below sets the twilight sky on fire. This nightly occurrence draws a huge audience to the best viewing areas surrounding the Jaggar Museum, where the fiery phenomena can be enjoyed with all five senses.

Four evenings this summer, Volcano Art Center (VAC) aspires to enhance the lava glow experience by introducing a special hula performance just before sunset. The following dates and times were chosen specifically for their closeness to the full moon cycle and actual sunset: May 24 at 6:00pm, June 21 at 6:00pm, July 26 at 6:30pm, August 23 at 6:15pm.

Sunset Hula3

Hula is widely recognized as one of the most treasured elements of Hawaiian cultural heritage. VAC has made an intentional effort since 1980 to perpetuate the ancient art of hula kahiko, welcoming an extensive variety of halau (troupes) and kumu hula (teachers) to share their dramatic portrayals of hula through dance, oli (chant) and mele (song).

“We are thrilled to have the dancers of Halau Kahula O Nawahine Noho Pu`ukapu performing under the direction of kumu hula Ana Nawahine Kahoopii,” states Julie Callahan, VAC’s Hula Program Coordinator. “Their movement is pure poetry come to life.”

Sunset Hula

This inspired outdoor presentation will take place rain or shine, and the audience is encouraged to bring a sitting mat, dress in warm, layered clothing, and come prepared for inclement weather. Anyone who requires an auxiliary aid or service should call (808) 967-8222 or email

“Sunset Hula” is the latest addition to VAC’s expanding “Hula Arts at Kilauea” program, supported in part by the County of Hawaii Department of Research and Development and the Hawaii Tourism Authority. All events are free, though donations are welcome and park entrance fees apply. For more information on Hula programs through Volcano Art Center, visit

Volcano Art Center (VAC) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1974 to develop, promote and perpetuate the artistic, cultural and environmental heritage of Hawaii’s people through the arts and education.


42nd Annual Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races August 30 through September 2, 2013

The 42nd Annual Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races starts Labor Day holiday weekend, Friday August 30 through Monday September 2, 2013. The world’s largest long distance canoe race is organized and hosted by Kai Opua Canoe Club, started 1929 in Kona. The Queen’s Race attracts 6-person crews from Hawaii, all throughout the U.S. and international crews from as far away as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Cook Islands, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Tahiti and United Kingdom.

Kai Opua Header

The 2013 Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races include the signature 18-mile long distance single hull 6-person canoe race for men and women crews; 6-mile men and women Wa‘a kaulua (double hull canoes) races;  stand-up paddleboard races including a stock 3.5 mile course and an unlimited 4.5 course sponsored by Hulakai, surfing Hawaii since 1963, OC1-man, OC2-man and Teen long distance canoe races.

Back for its fourth year is the Ali’i Challenge, blend of Survivor and Amazing Race, that includes a paddling distance of almost 17.5 miles followed by each crew of 12 negotiating a land course. Other Queen’s Race events include Walking Tour of Historic Kailua Village, International Paddlers Night, Torch Light Parade through Historic Kailua Village, Ocean lifestyle street fair, Queen Lili’uokalani Awards Ceremonies and a traditional Hawaiian Luau.

The 42nd Annual Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races is sponsored by Hawaii Tourism Authority, Queen K Tesoro, Steinlager, Seven Tiki Spiced Rum, OluKai and Courtyard Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel.

For detailed race information, course maps or to register online for the 2013 Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races, log onto

54th Annual Hawaii Island Billfish Tournament Information

This iconic big game fishing tournament built on prestige and strict International Game Fish Association (IGFA) rules for world records starts fishing on August 3rd and continues through August 10, 2013 in Kona, Hawaii.

Blue Hawaii

For five days, teams fish the famous waters off the Kona coast aboard some of the finest sport fishing vessels with captains who have built reputations around the world for catching big fish. Prized and powerful Pacific blue marlin are caught or tagged and released along the Kona coast every day. Occasionally, these famous waters produce a grander, a term known as a Pacific blue marlin weighing in at over 1,000 pounds. HIBT is headquartered on Kailua Pier where spectators see plenty of scoreboard action as teams weigh in at the end of the day, putting valuable points on the scoreboard. Kailua Pier is also a great place to watch the Tournament start each morning as boats line up across Historic Kailua Bay at 7:30 a.m, returning to the pier at 4:30.

Fishing action in Kona is expected to be hotly contested this summer. HIBT teams are expected from Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Vanuatu and from across the USA. All eyes will be on Old South Marlin Club Team 4 (North Carolina) who captured the 2012 win and the coveted HIBT Governor’s Trophy. This team’s cumulative total of 3,150 points ended up in the HIBT history books with the highest winning HIBT score since 2008. In fact, the Old South Marlin Club Team 4 score now ranks as the third highest since the tournament began in 1959.

HIBT event headquarters, retail and tournament control will once again be anchored at Courtyard Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, located adjacent to Kailua Pier. The public is invited to come to the Kailua pier and watch the boats line up across Historic Kailua Bay as fishing starts each day sharply at 7 a.m. At 4pm, boats return to Kailua pier with their team and catch.

The Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament is underwritten by the generosity of the County of Hawaii Department of Research and Development and the Hawaii Tourism Authority. The tournament is further supported in part by KWXX Radio and numerous corporate and community donors.

For more tournament information, including IGFA world records, rules, and 2013 HIBT entry information, log onto

State Takes Proactive, Collaborative Approach to Possible Boeing Strike

The House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, in conjunction with the Committees on Labor and Tourism, held an informational briefing regarding a possible engineer strike at the Boeing Company and the potential impact, if any, it may have on the State of Hawaii.

Legislature Logo

CPC Chair Angus McKelvey headed a panel that included Reps. Derek Kawakami, Mark Nakashima, Tom Brower, Romy Cachola, and Gene Ward. The panel was rounded out by Ray Goforth, Executive Director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), Mike McCartney, President and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, and Jeannine Souki of the Airlines Committee of Hawaii.

The SPEEA, which represents the personnel involved in the labor dispute, and Boeing are at odds over a new wage and benefits package. Boeing’s first offer was overwhelmingly rejected and the SPEEA has expressed significant concerns with the latest proposal. The next vote will be on February 15th and if the two sides do not agree, the SPEEA could possibly go on its third strike in history.

Among some of the possible issues discussed at the briefing were what effects, if any, the disruption could have on Aircraft On Ground support services, the impact the strike in 2000 actually had on the visitor industry, as well as the percentage of Boeing aircraft in the airline fleets that serve the state.

“I was pleased to see the HTA and the airlines in close communication to ensure that our visitors to Hawaii will have the confidence that their travel experience will be as seamless and enjoyable as possible,” said McKelvey. “Our proactive course of action will hopefully result with Hawaii being in a position to see as minimal disruptions as possible to our visitor industry, should this come to pass.”



Mechanical Incidents on Boeing Aircraft and Possible Strike Lead Hawaii Legislature to Meet for Informational Briefing

Boeing Informational Briefing


WHAT: The House Committees on Consumer Protection and Commerce, Labor, and Tourism will be holding a joint informational briefing in response to the recent mechanical incidents of Boeing aircraft and the possibility of a labor strike.

WHEN: Monday, January 28, 2013 at 2:00 p.m.

WHERE: Hawaii State Capitol, Conference Room 325

WHY: The recent mechanical incidents and possibility of a labor strike at Boeing has raised a number of potential concerns for the State. Contingency plans to mitigate any impacts on the islands – to include reduction of routes to less trafficked airports, alternative avenues for freight traffic, and the impact of a reduced flight schedule on tourism – will be among the topics of discussion.

WHO: The panel will include House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce Chair Angus McKelvey, Mike McCartney, President and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Ray Goforth, Executive Director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), members from the House Committees on Consumer Protection and Commerce, Labor, and Tourism. Representatives from Boeing and members of the commercial airline industry servicing Hawaii are also invited.


Kumu Hula Ehulani Stephany Featured in Traditional Hula Performance at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Volcano Art Center welcomes Halau Hula Ka Makani Hali ‘Ala O Puna to upcoming Na Mea Hawaii Hula Kahiko

Each month the Volcano Art Center (VAC) celebrates the traditions and art of hula through “Na Mea Hawaii Hula Kahiko” performances in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Halau Hula Ka Makani Hali ‘Ala O Puna, under the direction of Kumu Hula Ehulani Stephany, will grace the pa hula with their awe-inspiring style of Hawaiian dance and chant on Saturday, September 15, 2012.

Halau Hula Ka Makani Hali ‘Ala O Puna under the direction of Kumu Hula Ehulani Stephany

Since 1980, VAC has held the responsibility and privilege of inviting hula schools from all over Hawaii to perform at the stone hula platform, which is reserved exclusively for the perpetuation of traditional hula and chant. For cultural practitioners, an offering of hula in the presence of Halema’uma’u crater at the summit of Kilauea, the legendary home of the volcano goddess Pele, is especially inspiring.

For the hour-long outdoor performance starting at 10:30am, the audience is encouraged to bring mats for sitting on the grass and be prepared for variable weather conditions. On the same day, traditional Hawaiian arts and craft demonstrations will be held on the front porch of the Volcano Art Center Gallery from 9:30am to 1:30pm. Demonstrations include hands-on displays and lessons where all ages are invited to meet, learn from and talk story with friendly and knowledgeable locals.

Na Mea Hawaii Hula Kahiko is a free community event presented in cooperation with Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and supported in part by the County of Hawaii’s Department of Research and Development and the Hawaii Tourism Authority. As park entrance fees apply and parking is limited, carpooling is strongly recommended. For more information, visit or call (808) 967-8222.

Hawaii Tourism Authority Presents its 2012 Legacy Awards

The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA), the state’s tourism agency, presented the Daughters of Hawai‘i and the Friends of ‘Iolani Palace with its 2012 Tourism Legacy Awards, in recognition of both organizations’ established lifelong efforts in perpetuating the Hawaiian culture and sustaining a “legacy of aloha”.

Daughters of Hawaii

“As the only state with a monarchy history, the dedicated efforts of these organizations to recognize Hawai‘i’s ali‘i and their legacy is a testament to the vital importance of historical preservation for Hawai‘i,” said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the HTA. “Mahalo and congratulations to the Daughters of Hawai‘i and the Friends of ‘Iolani Palace for their commitment and dedication in honoring, preserving and perpetuating the Hawaiian culture and history. Their work is important to our community, our residents, visitors and future generations.”

At yesterday’s Hawai‘i Tourism Conference, the HTA’s 2012 Tourism Legacy Awards were presented to:
The Daughters of Hawai‘i is a nonprofit organization founded in 1903 “to perpetuate the memory and spirit of old Hawai‘i and of historic facts, and to preserve the nomenclature and correct pronunciation of the Hawaiian language.” The Daughters are one of the first organizations in Hawai‘i to recognize the importance of historical preservation. The organization owns and maintains the Queen Emma Summer Palace, the Hulihe‘e Palace and the site of Kamehameha III’s birth at Keauhou Bay in Kona on Hawai‘i Island. Through their collective efforts, the Daughters of Hawai‘i conserved these significant historical sites for generations of locals and visitors.

The Friends of ‘Iolani Palace was established “to preserve, restore, interpret, share and celebrate the unique cultural, historical, and spiritual qualities of ‘Iolani Palace and its grounds for the benefit of native Hawaiians, the people of Hawai‘i and the world.” Designated as a national historic landmark and as the only royal palace in the U.S., ‘Iolani Palace embodies Hawaiian cultural heritage and offers genuine opportunities for residents and visitors to experience our host culture.

The Tourism Legacy Awards, evolving from the Keep It Hawai‘i program, was established by the HTA to honor individuals, organizations and businesses that perpetuate the Hawaiian culture and traditions. Honorees have worked diligently to nurture the host culture creating respectful and authentic visitor experiences while securing bonds between the visitor industry and the Hawaiian community. Previous honorees included the late Dr. George Kanahele and the Bishop Museum.

The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority is a state agency established by law in 1998 to ensure a successful visitor industry and tourism economy in the state of Hawai‘i. As the state’s tourism authority, its mission is to strategically manage tourism to optimize benefits for Hawai‘i, integrating the interests of visitors, the community and visitor industry. Through the implementation of the statewide Hawai‘i Tourism Strategic Plan and HTA’s own strategic plan, the authority works to direct Hawai‘i tourism in a sustainable manner consistent with our economic goals, cultural values, preservation of natural resources, community desires, community desires, and visitor industry needs. For more information on the HTA, please visit

Record Turnout for 3rd Annual Volcano Rain Forest Runs

This past Saturday was an especially beautiful day for a run. The 3rd annual Volcano Rain Forest Runs on August 18, 2012 was blessed with sunshine and smiles for all the miles of the Half Marathon, 10K and 5K races held in Volcano Village on Hawaii’s Big Island.

A generous display of aloha from the crowds of spectators and volunteers helped propel the record-setting 590 racers across the finish line, especially Pahoa’s own Billy Barnett who finished first in the Half Marathon with a time of 1 hour, 19 minutes and 21 seconds.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled with the turnout or more thankful for everyone’s incredible support,” says Volcano Art Center CEO Tanya Aynessazian. Registration increased nearly 20% over the 495 total finishers in the 2011 Rain Forest Runs.

“I am filled with gratitude,” Aynessazian says, and extends special appreciation and sincere thanks to Race Director Sharron Faff, the board members and staff of VAC, the Volcano community, The Cooper Center, the Volcano Community Association, GU, Kona Marathon, Eddie O. and Lava 105.3, Leilehua Yuen and Manu Josiah, the County of Hawaii Department of Research and Development, the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Kilauea Lodge, Barefoot Wine, Rotarians of Hilo Bay, Pahoa Sunset and Volcano, the Keaau High School Cross Country Team and the many, many volunteers who helped make this event possible, positive and fun for everyone.

Race results and photos are posted at with special cheers for these top finishers:

  • Half Marathon: Billy Barnett (1:19:21, M 20–29, Pahoa) and Amy Gordon (1:38:25, F 30–39, Waialua)
  • 10K: Chris Gregory (:36:25, M 20–29, Hilo) and Keri Ogden (:42:56, F 20–29, Honolulu)
  • 5K: Todd Marohnic (:19:30, M 50–59, Volcano) and Shayli Nakamoto (:22:31, F 14–19, Kealakekua)

The next Volcano Rain Forest Runs is already set for August 17, 2013. Volcano Art Center – a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization created in 1974 whose mission is to promote, develop and perpetuate the artistic, cultural and environmental heritage of Hawaii through the arts and education – invites you to learn more about how you can support the arts and your community at

Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce Recognizes Pualu Awards Winners

The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce (KKCC) recently recognized nine individuals, businesses or organizations with Pualu Awards at its annual Installation and Membership Banquet at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.

“Meaning to “work together,” Pualu Awards were established in 1979 to honor those in West Hawai ‘i for their dedication and hard work in the community,” explains Vivian Landrum, Chamber president/CEO. There were nine winners in seven categories and they were chosen by an awards committee from nominations received by Chamber members and the general public.

The Community Education award honors an individual or organization that promotes and supports education and enrichment programs that develop personal skills and lifelong learning. This year’s recipient is Laurel Gregory.

Gregory serves as the sole librarian for our West Hawai‘i Community College and in that capacity she has turned the library into a student friendly, welcoming resource center that encourages both on-campus and distance learning students to expand their educational opportunities.

In addition, Gregory has been a member of the Kona AAUW – American Association of University Women—and has been instrumental in this group’s support of two programs for continued education: Women in Transition and GEMS, Girls Exploring Math and Science. Through Gregory’s efforts, access and interest in higher education on Hawai‘i Island has been increased.

The Environmental Awareness Award taps an individual or organization that exhibits sensitivity and concern for the environment through innovative environmental practices and is awarded to Lipps & Son – General Contractor.

As a result of the March 2011 tsunami, extensive damage was done to the Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. Restoration required not only environmental understanding but cultural sensitivity as well. As this area is recognized as an historical site, it presented dual challenges in the renovation.

Lipps & Son’s team consulted with experts on environmental issues, cultural practitioners, families from the area, as well as state and county officials. They ensured the renovations not only exhibited sensitivity and concern for the environment, but also preserved its unique historical features.

The Business Innovation Award recognizes a business or organization that is committed to improving or enhancing employee’s lives, or exhibits creative product development, marketing or customer service. Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory and West Hawaii Community Health Center each received this award.

One of two Pualu Business Innovation recipients was Bob and Pam Cooper of Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory, with KKCC President/CEO Vivian Landrum (left) and Chair Debbie Baker (right).

Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory (OHCF) is the first company in the state to both grow and make chocolate and they are lauded for their innovative vision, ingenuity and delectable chocolate. Finding no commercial equipment to process only an acre of cacao beans, Bob and Pam Cooper of Keauhou fashioned their own and now produce excellent, small-batch chocolate. Building on that success, they taught other Big Island residents how to grow cacao, resulting in 30 additional growers. They also offer a plantation tour for visitors to see their orchard and factory operations.

OHCF has developed a local and global market for selling their milk, dark and criollo chocolate as the first commercial, tree-to-bar chocolate company in the state. Their chocolate is sold at over 60 statewide locations and used by local chefs.

The other Business Innovation recipient was West Hawaii Community Health Center, with WHCHC Executive Director Richard Taafe accepting (center).

West Hawaii Community Health Center is a not-for-profit whose mission is to provide quality health services to all, regardless of income. Since opening, the center has increased its patient visits, from 2,200 in 2005 to over 32,000 in 2011.

To do this, WHCHC more than doubled its square footage in Kailua-Kona and hired more providers, opened the Keiki Health Center in Kealakekua, obtained an emergency adult dental van, which is parked at Kailua-Kona’s homeless shelter; and took health screenings and education into the more remote areas of West Hawai‘i, starting with Miloli‘i. This month, WHCHC will add adult care to the Kealakekua Health Center to better serve families in South Kona and will open the West Hawai‘i Community Health Center in Waikoloa to serve families in South Kohala.

The Lifetime Service Award taps an individual who has made a lifelong commitment to the community exemplified by their personal and/or business achievements. This year’s recipient is Virginia Isbell.

Lifetime Service Pualu Award: From left: Vivian Landrum, KKCC president/CEO, Lifetime Service recipient Virginia Isbell and KKCC Chair Debbie Baker

A wife, mother, teacher, leader, mentor, public servant, volunteer—each of these nouns describes Isbell.  She served in the state legislature for 16 years and then on the County Council for two more years. Isbell advocated for affordable housing and spearheaded the campaign to get state land for the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery .  She has served as an officer and director of Kai ‘Opua Canoe Club, helped initiate the West Hawaii County Band, (and played with them for 33 years), worked to obtain and improve the Girl Scout Camp on Hawai‘i Island and serves on the Kona Crime Prevention Committee.

Dedicated to making things better in our community, Isbell demonstrates excellence in her ability to identify problems, develop solutions, bring together strategic partners and stay committed until positive results are achieved, offering tireless service to Hawai‘i Island.

The Visitor Industry Marketing Award is presented each year to that person or group who diligently works to promote the visitor industry in West Hawai‘i. Congratulations to Kai ‘Opua Canoe Club’s Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Race.

Promoting the visitor industry is a beautiful and beneficial by-product of this organization’s event.  For the past 41 years, the Annual Queen Liliu’okalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Race has brought attention and visitors to Kona. Recognized as the world’s largest long distance canoe race, this Labor Day weekend event welcomes more than 2,500 paddlers from around the globe. The race partners with the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the County of Hawai ‘i to extend and leverage its world-wide appeal. This event highlights the state’s official team sport of Hawaiian outrigger canoe racing and includes additional cultural aspects such as a craft and ocean fair, torch lighting parade and “talk story” cultural walk through historic Kailua Village.

The Culture & Heritage award is awarded to an individual or organization that has exhibited, through its actions, practices that promote island traditions and preserves our multi-cultural heritage. This year’s recipient is the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa for celebrating and promoting the Hawaiian culture in a respectful, deep-rooted way.

Taking the model of cultural programs several steps further, the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa has made Hawai‘i’s culture core to its operations. Recognizing the importance of cultural revitalization and that the Hawaiian culture is what differentiates Hawai‘i from other tropical destinations, this resort offers, not only the “expected” cultural activities, but more. It has created Kaukulaelae Land & Sea Historical tours, including the opportunity to board a traditional Hawai‘i sailing canoe and learn the history and legends of the coastline; and the Lekeleke Cultural walking tour. Residents are encouraged to enjoy these tours and they are free.

Chamber Business of the Year: From left: Vivian Landrum, KKCC president/CEO, Rebecca Villegas accepting for recipient Kona Brewing Company and KKCC Chair Debbie Baker

Chamber Member of the Year recognizes the individual who advocates, promotes and supports the mission of KKCC through active participation on committees, events, membership and/or community service. This year KKCC honors two recipients:  a Chamber Business Member of the Year, Kona Brewing Company, and a Chamber Individual Member of the Year, Hazel Beck.

Kona Brewing Company not only strives to lessen its environmental impact, but aims to make a noticeable difference in our community. KBC continually donates product and merchandise to benefit local schools, non-profit organizations and county agencies—and KKCC is one of those recipients. KBC donates to the Chamber’s annual golf tournament, monthly AfterHours and Bid for Hawai‘i online auction. Without KBC’s continued generosity, Chamber events would not be as well received, successful or as popular as they are.

The Chamber Member of the Year has committed time, energy and more than her fair share of sweat equity to support the efforts of our Chamber. Hazel Beck, of the Hawai‘i Small Business Development Center, joined the Chamber in 2008 and immediately established herself within KKCC by volunteering as a resource for programs and serving on the education and later government affairs committees.  She was elected to serve on the Chamber’s Board of Directors in 2011. Beck was instrumental in producing KKCC’s first Economic Summit and she continues to chair and drive two of its resource groups.