Posts Tagged ‘Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau’

This weekend I’m at the beautiful Keystone Resort in Colorado attending TBEX ’12 representing the Hawaiian Island (and my client the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau). I’m actually here with a few other Hawaii delegates, including my colleague Noreen Kam and Hawaii-based bloggers Malia Yoshioka and Kim Rodgers.

It’s an incredible opportunity to network with and pitch story ideas to some of the top names in travel writing/blogging today. And while many have already made their presence felt at the opening reception at The Keystone Outpost last night at the delicious “Taste of Vail” event, there has been one other attendee here that’s been having an impact. THE ALTITUDE!

Coming from sea level of Hawaii to the “Mile High City” of Denver in 6.5 hours, it’s been an interesting transition. So far, I’ve fared pretty well, but I know the altitude has taken its toll on others. I’ve been taking the sage advice of friends to keep hydrated, lay low on the alcohol, and go slow. The water part is easy, but the other two are going to be a challenge with so many great events and warm Keystone hospitality being rolled our at our every turn. Plus this mountain resort has so much to see and do outside the conference agenda. It’s gorgeous here!

Well enough of this, time to get back to business. Opening keynote starts at 9 a.m. I’ll blog with you later.


Keystone Resort Village

Gondolas to The Keystone Outpost at 11,600+ feet elevation. Incredible ride and views from the top.

Heading up the mountain with Kim Rodgers and Malia Yoshioka. Shaka! \m/

Got to touch a little of the leftover snow too!

Incredible mountain views from The Keystone Outpost.

The food at “A Taste of Vail” was delicious as well with dishes like this one from Beano’s Cabin – Suckling Berkshire Pig Ragout, House Made Pappardelle Pasta, Peach Preserves.

Gondolas to head back down the mountain.


The view from my room at The Fairmont San Francisco.

The view from my room at The Fairmont San Francisco.

It’s been about 10 years since I last visited the San Francisco Bay Area as a college youngster attending the PRSSA National Assembly with fellow classmates from the University of Hawaii. Looking back on that trip, the only things I recall were the conference itself, Fisherman’s Wharf, and drinking Guinness for the first time. Couldn’t tell you what hotel we stayed at, where we ate, who we met, and what else we did. Sad but true!

So I was excited to get back to the Bay Area this past week on business to launch the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau’s (HVCB) new Hawaii: A Thousand Reasons to Smilecampaign. What’s this all about and what else did I do there? Read on.

San Francisco Chronicle Travel Editor Susan Fornoff and SFGate's Hawaii Insider Jeanne Cooper.

Catching up with San Francisco Chronicle Travel Editor Susan Fornoff and's Hawaii Insider Jeanne Cooper at the HVCB Smiles reception.

Hawaii: A Thousand Reasons to Smile

Hawaii’s second-largest market for visitors – the San Francisco Bay Area – is going to see, hear, and experience the Islands of Aloha in March like never before in a new campaign led by HVCB. This initiative is a month-long promotion throughout March that will showcase the appeal of Hawaii’s culture, natural beauty, and music to residents throughout the Bay Area through print, broadcast and online advertising, digital freeway bulletin boards, in train stations and BART cars, on ad walls in popular settings, and TV shows, including ABC’s The View From the Bay. The campaign will direct consumers to visit, a new HVCB microsite that will engage them with interactive promotions, offer information about Hawaii events in the Bay Area, and let them plan their vacation.

To kick it all off, HVCB hosted a reception for more than 50 Bay Area media at the Fairmont San Francisco on Feb. 26 featuring the incredible music of Willie K. and the Polynesian Cultural Center, along with the delicious cuisine of Chef Jake Belmonte of The Faimont Kea Lani, Maui. Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann was also there, along with HVCB and its Island Chapters. This event has been my pet project for the past couple months and it went off well. I also owe a huge mahalo to my colleague Michael Ni who traveled with me and also my team back at the office who made it happen. It was an amazing night and you can see who was there by checking out the photos on my Flickr page.

Aloha Friday Pau Hana Concerts at Gordon Biersch

In the island-style tradition of “work over, hang loose”, Hawaii’s music, cuisine, and Aloha Spirit will also be showcased in Aloha Friday Pau Hana Concerts being held at Gordon Biersch restaurants in San Francisco, Palo Alto, and San Jose. Each Friday in March, from 5-11 p.m., some of Hawaii’s top entertainers will perform their musical magic and Aloha Spirit, including Willie K., Raiatea Helm, Brother Noland, Mailani Makainai, Kealii Kanealii, John Cruz, Cyril Pahinui, and Taimane Gardner. Patrons will also enjoy a special menu of Hawaii-inspired cuisine and can win trips to the islands. My colleague Michael has done an amazing job putting this all together with the GB team and we look forward to seeing many smiling faces at the events.

Great meeting Nancy Brown (@nancydbrown), David Lytle (@davitydave), Amy (@cookingwithamy), and Vanessa (@amidoingokay).

Great meeting Nancy Brown (@nancydbrown), David Lytle (@davitydave), Amy (@cookingwithamy), and Vanessa (@amidoingokay). and HVCB SF Blogger Meetup

Through the magic of Twitter, I’ve gotten to know Uptake’s Elliott Ng and appreciate his passion for travel. At his suggestion, he recommended co-hosting at meetup of local SF bloggers at the Hukilau restaurant on Feb. 27. It would be the last order of business before the Hawaii team headed back home. So Michael, Rebecca Pang of Stryker Weiner and Yokota Public Relations (representing Oahu Visitors Bureau), and I had the opportunity to meetup with about 20 bloggers/tweeters to talk about Hawaii and the new campaign. It was a great event pulled together by Uptake’s Pat Jenkins and Alison Osborne and I couldn’t help but take as many photos as I could which you can also find on my Flickr page.

Also found some time to “play”

While this was strictly a work visit to the Bay Area, I did manage to find some time to have just a little bit of fun. I’ve recapped most of that on my Flickr page, but also want to highlight a couple other nuggets of fun:

  • I finally had the chance to meet fellow tweep Ken Yeung in real life (IRL). He’s actually very familiar with Anthology Marketing Group having worked at Starr Seigle Communications after college before moving to the Bay Area. We stumbled upon a great little sushi restaurant – Sudachi – with great food and cheap beer for a mini-Tweetup. He’s a fellow social media explorer like me and maintaines a great blog that’s a fun and interesting read. Looking forward to tweeting up with Ken again.
  • I first had the opportunity to meet Social Media Club co-founder Kristie Wells in Honolulu last October at one of her workshops she was doing with hubby Chris Heuer. Since then we’ve managed to stay in touch via Twitter. So when the opportunity came up to have breakfast with Kristie in SF, I couldn’t pass it up. Breakfast itself at Brenda’s French Soul Food was unreal (I had the oyster scrambled eggs, potatoes, and biscuit which was phenomenal), but the conversation about social media, marketing, and life in general was incredible. Mahalo Kristie for a fun impromptu Tweetup. Only wish Chris could have been there too!

I could go on and on and on, but I’ll close here. San Francisco is an incredibly beautiful city for so many reasons. I can’t wait to get back and hope I can find a way to return soon with the family on vacation. Until then, I look forward to keeping in touch with all the great people I met. As we say in Hawaii, a hui hou (until we meet again)!


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Beware the Ides of March! This month has not been kind to Hawaii businesses and the superstition that bad things happen in threes was confirmed once more.

First it was Weyerhaeuser announcing it was closing its doors after 50 years in Hawaii. Then Molokai Ranch shocked the islands with the same news last week. And today, the news we were all hoping we weren’t going to get came down.

Aloha Airlines today announced it is ceasing passenger operations at close of business tomorrow. What does that mean? No more Aloha Airlines interisland or transpacific service come Tuesday. But sadder, it means roughly 1,900 Aloha Airlines employees will lose their jobs in less than 48 hours. I wish all of the Aloha Airlines employees the best and a heartfelt mahalo for everything they’ve done over the past 61 years.

On a brighter note, Hawaiian Airlines and go! Airlines are stepping up its service to accommodate the void left by Aloha Airlines in the interisland marketplace. Hawaiian said today it is increasing its interisland capacity by 6,000 seats starting on Tuesday, so it good to know we won’t be hung out to dry.

If you’re following the story as a local or visitor heading to or currently here in Hawaii, the best source for updated information is the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau’s website. It’s a one-stop-shop for the latest updates from the Governor’s office, Hawaii Tourism Authority, airlines, hotels, and visitor industry.


[Photo courtesy of Boeing]

– Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain at Side Street Inn with our client Darlene Morikawa (HVCB) and my colleague Michael Ni. (Photo courtesy of Michael Ni)

Head’s up to all “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” fans out there. The Hawaii episode airs one week from tonight (on Monday, March 3 at 8 p.m. HST) on the Travel Channel. As a self-proclaimed foodie and Bourdain fanatic, I can barely wait to see what the “bad boy of cuisine” has to say about his visit to Hawaii as he explores our local foods and culture. As long as it doesn’t turn out like his Cleveland episode (boy he was brutal!), the 50th state should be in good shape. Here’s what’s in store:

Tag along with chef and author Anthony Bourdain as he travels around Oahu and Hawaii’s Big Island to dispel the common myths of Hawaii…some of them his own. It’s no longer just about the luau, tiki drinks, and aloha shirts. In Hawaii, he finds a mixture of cultures that create delicious eats found nowhere else.

The thing I love about Bourdain is his style of calling it like he sees it (or tastes it). It makes for compelling, honest television that pulls viewers in with no hold barred commentary…for things good and bad. So it was with some nervousness that my team at McNeil Wilson went after this show on behalf of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) and secured it as part of our PR efforts to promote travel to the state. Everyone on the team loves No Reservations, it’s the most popular show on the Travel Channel, and millions of viewers who love to travel tune in religiously. Nervousness aside, this was the right thing to do for Hawaii.

Bourdain feasting on SPAM dishes at New Uptown Fountain with local writer David Choo. (Photo courtesy of Michael Ni)

Hats off to my colleague Michael Ni who was relentless in hunting down the producers and getting the show to Hawaii. He put together a great itinerary for Bourdain and had a chance to hang out with him and the entire crew. I’ll let Michael tell you more about the experience in his new blog.

And for the hardcore No Reservations fans, word is Side Street Inn (one of the places Bourdain visited) is having a screening party next Monday. Be there or be square. However, reservations are recommended!



Congratulations to Chef Robert Irvine and his crew for pulling off an amazing Hawaiian luau in just eight hours. The Dinner: Impossible – Late for the Luau – Hawaii episode was fantastic and I’m about ready to leave the house to go find some Hawaiian food.

Chef Irvine did an amazing job cooking the kalua pig in the imu, making 150 laulau, poke, squid luau, and a bunch of other dishes. Even the contemporary dishes like the Sweet Potato Risotto and Hearts of Palm Salad looked so ono! Everything looked great and the guests at Kona Village Resort obviously loved it! Big mahalo to local Chef Sam Choy for helping Chef Irvine along the way. Sam is an amazing chef and truly one of the pioneers of Hawaii cooking.

It was clear to me from the start that Chef Irvine was genuinely happy to be in Hawaii and on the Big Island. Even though he didn’t care for poi, he did have some great things to say about his time in Hawaii last November. My Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) PR team at McNeil Wilson asked Chef Irvine a few questions about his time in the islands. Here’s a bit of a “behind the scenes” look into tonight’s episode:

dinnerimpos_leftgutter.jpgDescribe your thoughts when you found out that you were doing a Hawaii challenge?

Chef Irvine: I actually had a day to unwind in Hawaii bewfore I received the challenge, which is rare for me on Dinner: Impossible. I played some golf, had a nice dinner and awoke to meet my fate. When I heard the challenge, with the beautiful Hawaiian seacape behind me, I had my usual moment of mental panic, wondering if I would have food available, equipment, a kitchen or any of the things I would need to put dinner on the table. Then it was off to the races.

When you were told you would have to put on an authentic Hawaiian luau in only eight hours, what were you feeling?

Chef Irvine: I felt immediately that there was a three hundred pound gorilla… or swine… in the room, because I knew instinctively that I was going to have to face off against Kalua Pig. I have dealt with Kalua Pig once or twice before in my career and I knew right away that in order to do it properly, I should have started at least three hours earlier. And you don’t get a second chance; once you dig it out of the ground, if it’s not properly cooked, you’ve nowhere to go… excpet maybe to just swim off into the ocean. I immediately felt better, though, once I saw Sam Choy’s smiling face.

What was the most challenging aspect of this mission?

Chef Irvine: Physically, it was very demanding dealing with the digging and the manipulation of the Kalua Pig. I’m still in pretty good shape, but I’d hate to have to go through that regimen every day. Also, I’m very intense in cooking situations, especially on these challenges, and I had to work to overcome my natural tendencies a bit to happily coexist with my native kitchen helpers, who were working on Hawaiian time.

What was the most valuable lesson/ tip that guest chef Sam Choy gave you?

Chef Irvine: First, let me say that Sam is a national treasure, not just a treasure of the Hawaiian Islands. I love him to death. The number one lesson he taught me that day was to respect the fantastic, fresh native ingredients, some of which had just been pulled out of the ocean hours before we started, and to respect the traditions of how the foods are usually prepared. I was going to be serving my food later that day to folks who grew up going to luaus, so if I tried to get fancy or mess about with their expectations, I was going to get caught out.

Describe some of the produce/ items you used in creating your menu. What were the most unique or unusual products that you had to use?

Chef Irvine: Luau leaves and Ti leaves, I had never encountered before. Learning how to tie up a lau-lau was an adventure, especially when I found out I’d be responsible for getting hundreds of them in the ground before we could cover the pig. I’d seen and tasted poi that had been comercially made before, but I’d never seen it made fresh- I credit my sous chef David for doing a great job on the poi. Even some of the foods I was familar with, like Ahi tuna, we used in new and creative ways… new to me anyway. I had never made poke before and I was able to learn from the master, Sam Choy. Now I’m hooked on Hawaiian cuisine.

What was the most memorable part of filming this episode for you?

Chef Irvine: I love the beauty and atmosphere of the islands. I learned things about the traditions that have grown up here for hundreds of years. For instance, at the end of the challenge, we served up the cheeks of the pig and the poi we had made to Sam, the King of the Feast. Very simple, but filled with meaning. I played golf with the Hawaiian sea spray coming in from the ocean, I went out on an outrigger canoe with a great local family who virtually adopted us for the afternoon.. and we beat the challenge. I think it was one of the best episodes we’ve ever done on the show!

Big mahalo to my MWC colleagues Merrissa and Rhegan for ensuring this production went as smoothly as possible. To all that tuned in, I hope you enjoyed the show!!


Food Network’s “Dinner: Impossible” airs its “Late for the Luau” episode filmed in Hawaii on Wednesday, Feb. 20. (Photo courtesy of Food Network).

Attention all Dinner: Impossible and Chef Robert Irvine fans! The Hawaii episode – “Late for the Luau” – filmed on Hawaii’s Big Island airs tomorrow night (Wednesday, Feb. 20) on the Food Network at 8 p.m. HST (10 p.m. EST). Here’s a bit of a teaser of what’s in store:

Chef Robert Irvine caters a Hawaiian luau at Kona Village Resort on Hawaii’s Big Island for 150 people. After receiving a lesson in luau food from renowned Chef Sam Choy, Irvine has to create multiple dishes using only the food and equipment provided and must rely on some of the locals to help him in the kitchen. Can Chef Irvine speed up “Hawaiian time” and complete his mission or will this be Dinner: Impossible?

This particular episode is special, not only because it was filmed in our backyard, but also because my team here at McNeil Wilson Communications secured this show for Hawaii on behalf of our client the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) as part of our public relations initiatives.

Mahalo to Darlene at HVCB for approving the project and to my associates Merrissa and Rhegan for putting it all together and helping onsite with the production. They tell me Chef Robert is a really cool guy who loved his time in Hawaii. Thanks also to Vicky and Kona Village Resort for stepping up and partnering with us, in addition to Sam Choy for taking the time to be a part of the show. And last but not least, a big mahalo to Amie, Kristen, and Natalie at Shooters, Inc. who produced the show.

This should be a lot of fun to watch. Set your DVR or make sure you’re in front of the TV at 8 p.m.


P.S. The Hawaii episode of “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” airs on Monday, March 3 on the Travel Channel! More details regarding our involvement will be shared soon.

adrian.gifYes, the following is a bit of a pat on my own back, but it’s my blog so I can do what I want.

Congratulations to the McNeil Wilson Communications HVCB PR team for bringing home a platinum award in the prestigious HSMAI Adrian Awards competition. Kudos to my colleague Michael Ni for landing Bravo Network’s TOP CHEF season 2 finale last year which garnered the award in the “Feature Placement – Television” category. The two-hour show filmed on Hawaii’s Big Island was unreal, showcasing our state’s finest culinary assets and giving the destination priceless exposure.

It was a proud moment shared with our client, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB),who took home the lion’s share of honors for destination marketing on January 28 at the 51st Adrian Awards Gala in New York City. HVCB received eight awards – two platinum, three gold, and three silver – recognizing excellence in public relations, advertising, and web marketing in 2007 and making HVCB the top winner in the worldwide “CVB/Destination/Offices of Tourism” category.

For more details about the awards, check out the HVCB press release we distributed the other day. As we hoped would happen, HVCB and our firm received some very nice press in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Honolulu Advertiser, and Pacific Business News over the past couple days.

It’s great being recognized for good work. Based on the TV shows we have slated to visit Hawaii this year, I’d say our chances of winning a few more awards next year are pretty strong.