The Valley Isle was showcased for a group of South Korean journalists last week as part of a strategy for Maui County to share in the spotlight coming to Hawaii next month during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leader's Week meetings.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime event for Hawaii and for Maui," said Teena Rasmussen, Maui County economic development coordinator, who led planning of the visit for the Korean journalists. "When all is said and done, we want to have taken every opportunity that is given to us so that we can create a lasting impression with the APEC economies that goes far beyond the APEC event."
She said the ultimate goal is for Maui to benefit from future cultural, educational and business exchanges.
Korean visitor Mayna Kim of Comuplus snaps a photo inside Puunene Mill on Tuesday morning. She was among a contingent of nine South Korean journalists to visit Maui in advance of next month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation event in Honolulu.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The visiting journalists - six men and three women - were on Maui three nights and two days beginning Monday evening and stayed at the Grand Wailea, Rasmussen said.
"These were not travel writers," she said. "They were economic-business journal writers."
Their itinerary included a visit to a Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. hydro-electric plant powered by running ditch water and its Puunene mill and bagasse renewable energy operation. The group had lunch at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, where they saw the "most modern performing arts facility in Hawaii," Rasmussen said. Also at the center, the journalists heard a presentation from Maui Electric Co. officials on their smart-grid project and saw a video presentation on Maui County. They also enjoyed a performance by Napua Makua's halau and inspected the center's photovoltaic panels.
From there, the journalists traveled to Maalaea to see the wind-energy farm, Rasmussen said.
On Wednesday, the visitors went to the summit of Haleakala, where they toured two observatories operated by the University of Hawaii Institute of Astronomy, she said. They had lunch at Kula Lodge before being taken to Kahului Airport to fly to Oahu for the second leg of their trip.
Rasmussen said about two-thirds of the visiting journalists spoke some English, although they sometimes deferred to a translator on loan from the Bank of Hawaii.
"We were actually surprised how well they did speak English," she said, adding that they were certainly able to convey their impressions of Maui.
"They thought Maui was absolutely beautiful," she said. "They were very, very interested in our renewable energy programs. They asked a lot of questions about renewable energy."
Rasmussen said the journalists were mostly a "very young crowd," in their late 20s and early 30s, although a couple of the men were in their 40s.
When they went back to their hotel, they found time to swim in the pool, and they ate at Cheeseburger in Paradise, she said.
"They were enthralled with Maui," she said. "I was extremely proud how our community pulled together and treated them with such aloha."
Rasmussen said the group's tour guides kept repeating that Maui is the best.
"They'll go home remembering Maui no ka oi," she said.
Rasmussen said Maui County's future involvement with APEC activities will include a sister-city summit Sept. 13-15 at the Sheraton Waikiki. That event will be held in conjunction with a clean-energy summit at the Hawaii Convention Center.
The sister-city summit will include the presentation of the Hawaii Business Innovation Showcase Award, which was won in Maui County by HNU-Energy, a Wailuku-based company that custom-engineers renewable energy technology through research and development. All of the showcase's 35 finalists will receive awards at the event expected to draw 500 people, including 20 mayors from other parts of the world, Rasmussen said.
At the Sept. 13 awards event at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Maui chef Craig Erickson of the Napili Kai Beach Resort's The Sea House Restaurant will be among chefs cooking for attendees of the gathering, she said. At a Sept. 14 luncheon, all four Hawaii mayors will be signing new sister-city agreements, with Mayor Alan Arakawa signing a memorandum of intent with the city of Goyang in South Korea.
During "Leader's Week" Nov. 7 to 13 in Honolulu, Maui County will have a booth at the convention center, Rasmussen said. The events will include a "CEO Summit" with business leaders from throughout the world.
"That's a good opportunity," she said.
Maui County also has packaged a number of day trips here for business and government leaders who can get away from Honolulu to see the Valley Isle, she said. The tours will focus on agriculture, aquaculture and renewable energy.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.