Hawaii hopes for boost in tourism from Obama link


HONOLULU, HI – In the wake of criticism for moving too slowly to capitalize on a native son’s election to the nation’s highest office, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau has unveiled a new Web site listing some of the spots President-elect Barack Obama has visited as an adult.

The site highlights locations where Obama and his family visited during a respite in August from the arduous Democratic primary campaign, including Pearl Harbor, Hanauma Bay, and a country club where he played golf.

Its creation follows criticism from one of the state’s top Democrats that the Hawaii Tourism Authority was not planning to promote Hawaii during Obama’s inaugural events in Washington DC in January.

Rep. Neil Abercrombie said two weeks ago that millions of people will be traveling to the nation’s capitol for the inauguration “and Hawaii is doing zero… We are missing out on it.”

David Uchiyama, vice president of tourism marketing, said Tuesday that the agency began working on Obama-related projects right after the election.

For example, Uchiyama said the authority is assisting three musical troupes competing to be Hawaii’s entrant in the inaugural parade. One of the bands is from Punahou School, where Obama attended junior high and high school.

More broadly, tourism officials hope the promotion will attract more tourists from around the world to Hawaii, he said. Island tourism has declined in recent months with national economic problems.

“There’s a lot of interest, as you can see in some of the articles being written about his time in Chicago and people interested in where he spends his time there in Chicago,” Uchiyama said. “The same holds true in Hawaii.”

Gov. Linda Lingle said authority officials should be dispassionate about Obama-related projects it pursues.

“The nature of their decision has to be, not are we proud because the president-elect is from Hawaii, but will the expenditure of public funds in the inaugural time period help us attract more people to the state, or are there other ways?” she said at a press conference Monday.

On the Net: “Barack Obama’s Hawaii” – http://www.gohawaii.com/obama