HONOLULU (CN) – Honolulu is aflutter, preparing for the return of its native son, President Barack Obama, who will arrive Friday to host representatives from the 21 member countries of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference.
Hawaiians have mixed emotions about the increased security, checkpoints and road closures. Some are stocking up on food to avoid weekend traffic. Others are leaving the island.
Mayor Peter Carlisle issued a statement reminding Honolulans that the estimated 20,000 of visitors, including delegations and media people, will spend millions of dollars.
APEC, whose 21 member countries are all on the Pacific Rim, began in 1989 at the instigation of Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke. The group addresses issues of tariffs, trade barriers, mutual investment, and imports and exports across the Asia-Pacific region.
President Obama announced 2 years ago that Honolulu, his childhood home, would host the 2011 APEC conference.
Obama, who will arrive on Veteran’s Day, will split his time between the luxurious Ihilani Marriott hotel, and the Hale Koa hotel on Waikiki, which is owned and operated by the U S. Army.
The Honolulu Police Department has increased security and is warning residents to anticipate Secret Service checkpoints and traffic jams.
Hawaii has always been a melting pot, and Anglos are a minority.
Visitors will be concentrated in Waikiki, an area less than 1 square mile that produces more than 45 percent of statewide tourism revenue, 8 percent of the gross state product and 12 percent of state and local tax revenue.
Police have conducted sweeps of homeless people in and around Waikiki all fall. Sidewalks, bus stops and roads have been given a facelift.
The main island, Oahu, is 44 miles long by 30 miles wide. The 2010 Census listed the population of the state capital, Honolulu, as 953,200.
Asian countries, particularly Japan, are major investors in Hawaii. The average Japanese tourist stays in Honolulu a shorter time than other tourists, but spends more than any other tourist.
According to City and County of Honolulu surveys, the city is beginning to recover from its loss of jobs to the recession. Economically, Hawaii has always lagged behind the mainland by about 6 months.
Member countries attending the APEC summit are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taipei, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.
The meeting concludes Sunday.