The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting rotates among APEC's 21 member nations each year, so when it was announced that the U.S. would be the host nation for 2011, Hawaii officials submitted a bid to the U.S. State Department, which sponsors and funds the meeting. (The meeting was last held in the U.S. in 1993, in Seattle.)
In its proposal, Hawaiian officials highlighted Oahu's meetings infrastructure, hospitality, climate, and culture, as well as its geographic location between Asia-Pacific and North America. Ultimately, the decision rested with President Barack Obama, and at the 2009 APEC Summit in Singapore, he announced that his home state would host APEC 2011. Planning began immediately thereafter, with the establishment of a 25-member host committee to work with the State Department in orchestrating the meeting.
The host committee set up teams to oversee every part of the conference, including transportation, airport arrivals, convention center, housing, hospitality training, security, and others. The committee trained 2,000 volunteers to assist during APEC week. The State Department also came in and trained the host committee on the various protocols and customs in Asian countries.
The biggest challenge was booking hotel rooms, says Randy Tanaka, who sat on the host committee and oversaw the booking process. At past APEC meetings, the host country assigned specific hotels to the visiting countries. Not in Hawaii. “It's important to the U.S. government to demonstrate our democratic process,” says Tanaka, so the various delegations were not told where they had to stay. Instead, explains Tanaka, the countries were surveyed about their needs for rooms, suites, meeting space, security, and other criteria. Then the hosts assessed hotels to find the best options, and each country delegation was given three choices. Months of phone calls and site visits followed, until each country settled on a hotel. A sampling: the Americans, including the Obamas, lodged at the Hilton Hawaiian Village; the Chinese stayed at the Sheraton Waikiki; the White House press corps stayed at the Westin Moana Surfrider; the U.S. Secret Service stayed at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani; while the Royal Hawaiian hosted the APEC Business Advisory Council. Also, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the Russians stayed at The Modern; the South Koreans stayed at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa; the Australians stayed at the Outrigger Reef Hotel, and the Japanese delegation stayed at the Hawaii Prince Waikiki.