FOR A CITY THAT RECEIVES MORE than 5 million visitors a year — a number rising steadily — growth can be difficult to manage. With a reputation as the crossroads to tropical paradise throughout the Pacific, Honolulu is known for its friendly, welcoming people and magnificent natural beauty. U.S. residents need no passport to enter the 50th state, and visitors and business travelers often decide they want to enjoy this climate and lifestyle year-round — and plan their relocation.
Many locals feel the pressure and expect their government to retain the charm and scale of their neighborhoods, parks, retail establishments and local restaurants. As an example, Honolulu’s mayor recently proposed a moratorium on building permits for what he called “monster homes.” These huge homes disrupt the older, established neighborhoods and put a strain on city services and utilities. But, of course, exceptions will be granted in certain cases, and property values will continue to rise. Tourism will grow, and facilities for business meetings and hotel rooms and services will expand to meet these demands. The sunshine factor, mountains, beaches and deep-blue waters prove powerful drivers of growth for any city.
Honolulu is virtually surrounded by military installations, which further puts some land out of play for residents and developers alike. They also drive an economic engine for the city and residents and maintain considerable green space that can’t be developed.
Two areas expect renewed plans for growth in coming years: Kaka’ako, between downtown Honolulu and Waikiki and famous for a vibrant neighborhood food scene, and Kapolei, a fastgrowing town outside the city but close to Ko Olina Beach and Paradise Cove on the leeward side of Oahu.
Hotel availability and cost also affect visitor growth. Affordability for families and groups is high on the wish list for travelers. A new concept, “limited service” hotels, emerged to help fill the cost gap in the city. If a family or visitor doesn’t need or won’t use a spa, gym, pool or bar and restaurant with a full staff, hotels without these amenities can offer significantly lower room costs.
Nevertheless, Honolulu’s hotels and meeting facilities continue to grow and expand. Following a $35 million renovation, the independent boutique Queen Kapiolani Hotel reopened with a 1960s theme and original art from the Bishop Museum, a new pool deck and the best views of Diamond Head on Waikiki. The Shoreline Hotel, also on Waikiki, invested in updates that feature bold art and graphics to become the city’s most Instagram-able property in an attempt to attract younger guests.
For guests who just can’t leave the charms of Honolulu, several new condominium buildings are under construction in the Kaka’ako, Ala Moana and Waikiki sections of the city.
One of the most innovative additions for connecting with the locals, especially those in the creative arts, is a new cellphone app, Art World Escape — AWE — which enables users to discover the true Honolulu. You can spend a few hours a day or hit the streets for the nightlife you won’t find in the guidebooks, all with a connected local in that field: painters, graffiti artists, musicians and local foodies. Want to experience hip-hop Hawai’ianstyle or be one of the first to visit Michael Mina’s new restaurant at the International Market Place? The AWE has the potential to turn a predictable tropical vacation into a true travel experience. And you might make some interesting new friends in the process.
Heading east out of Honolulu on H1 to the island’s arid south shore, the topography changes quickly due to the lack of rainfall. Past Diamond Head and Kahala, you’ll see cactus blooming but few palm trees. Some locals call it a moonscape. Plan a stop at the KoKo Crater just off Hanauma Bay, a great spot to cool off with a quick swim. Don’t miss the Halona Blowhole, where the ocean blows up through a rock about 30 feet in the air and offers a stunning view of Sandy Beach, the most dangerous beach in Hawai’i. An ambulance permanently stands by each day, but body boarders love the place. A bit farther before you turn north find the Makapu’u Lighthouse. Climb the 647-foot tower for great views and, in the winter, some whale spotting. Now turn north on Route 72 back to lush vegetation and calmer beaches like Kailua Park. If you’re ready for lunch, locals love the vegetarian fare at ’Ai Love Nalo not far up the highway. Afterward, return to the city quickly on the H3 or continue north and explore Mokapu Point.
Take H1 north from the city and then H2 through central Oahu past the famous Dole plantation and on to Haleiwa on Route 99 and the beginning of the North Shore beaches, home to some of the tallest waves in the world. Continue on Route 83 as you wave-watch and break for lunch at the outdoor gardens at Waimea Falls Park after a tour of the falls. Continue north to the world-famous Sunset Beach, the location for many surfer movies. Stay for a traditional dinner under the stars and enjoy the performances at the famous Polynesian Cultural Center off Route 83.
Return to the city on H3 with spectacular mountain and city views.
I imagine that when writer Hans Christian Andersen mused, “Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale,” he was standing at the edge of Copenhagen’s historic Tivoli Gardens, one of his favorite haunts, enlivened by the swirl of human happiness that surrounded him: children laughing; carousels spinning; games of chance played for prizes; lovers holding hands; hungry people whispering over sweets, hot drinks, beer and towering, open-faced smørrebrød, Denmark’s quintessential sandwich. That fairy tale lives on today at the second-oldest amusement park in the world, a spectacle of folly architecture, bakeries, gardens, rides, restaurants, puppet shows and joy ... and which also happens to be one of the city’s most storied places to convene for business.
Without a doubt, the pandemic changed the role of airports in the travel industry. Hamad International Airport’s role evolved in many ways since the pandemic hit. Now, more than ever, airports are responsible for creating a secure passenger experience. As the gateway to Qatar and the world, the safety and wellbeing of staff and passengers has always been at the core of Hamad International Airport’s strategy.
The restored Park Hyatt Toronto reopened its doors, bringing luxury, sophistication and glamour alongside a nod to the hotel’s Canadian heritage. Alessandro Munge of Studio Munge collaborated on the hotel’s refresh, drawing inspiration from Canada’s seasons and natural landscapes.
I recently dined at Irwin’s in Philadelphia. The restaurant is located on the rooftop of the Bok Building, a former school turned collective of small businesses, non-profits, artist workshops, a bar and restaurant. I previously visited Bok for the bar and yoga classes, and I was excited to experience the restaurant.
GBTA’s Convention 2021 will bring the business travel industry together for the first time in a long time. Once again, you’ll learn and connect with experts and each other, along with discussions with leading thinkers, entrepreneurs and change makers addressing the issues that matter most.
The Global Business Travel Association, the world’s largest business travel and meetings trade organization, recently released a statement from GBTA CEO Suzanne Neufang regarding the Biden administration’s recent announcement that the U.S. travel ban will be relaxed in November for vaccinated travelers from 26 Schengen countries, the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Arriving early afternoon in Puerto Rico, we jumped in an Uber and took a short, 15-minute drive from the airport to La Concha. As it was Tuesday, the streets were not too busy and the hotel lobby was calm. During the weekend, the scene likely would have been more bustling. We were greeted by a staff member who requested proof of vaccination and government-issued ID, and were given a wristband to indicate we were fully vaccinated. All guests are required to be vaccinated and wear masks at all times while moving around the hotel. Hand sanitizer stations were placed around the lobby, in elevators and in each common area.
Since its prestige for attracting the world elite grew in the 1960s, Greece remains the go-to destination for glittering holidays. Each step of the journey is enrobed in luxury, from culinary traditions with the highest standard of execution and name-brand, high-end shopping to first-rate wellness locales and elite accommodations, like 5-star hotels, private villas and yachts.
The Rittenhouse has long stood out as one of Philadelphia’s finest hotels, centrally located in one of the city’s poshest neighborhoods. Needless to say, I knew I was in for an afternoon of luxurious pampering when I hopped in my car and headed down I-95 from my suburban home to the heart of the City of Brotherly Love. As I drove through the seemingly endless roadwork on the highway, I realized just how long it had been since I’d driven this once-familiar route into the city as a result of the pandemic. Of course I was eager for the relaxation and bliss that was in my future, but it was also a welcome feeling to head back into Philadelphia for a moment of normalcy.