Hawaii to host major global conservation meeting


HONOLULU — Hawaii will host the world’s largest conservation conference in 2016, drawing leaders from 1,200 organizations worldwide that are part of The International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The World Conservation Congress is expected to attract 8,000 attendees from UN agencies, businesses and non-governmental organizations from 160 countries.

President Barack Obama wrote a letter supporting Hawaii’s bid, saying the warmth and hospitality of the people of Hawaii will make a lasting impression on the delegates.

“Hawaii is one of the most culturally and ecologically rich areas in the United States, with a wealth of unique resources and a distinctive traditional culture,” Obama said in the letter.

The meeting will be hosted at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu. The event has drawn popular musicians and leaders of countries, large corporations, the World Bank and the United Nations.

“This will be an enormous infusion economically for Hawaii,” Gov. Neil Abercrombie said.

The event will have a ripple effect on tourism and will give the Convention Center international exposure, he said.

This will be the first time that the United States hosts the gathering since the group’s creation in 1948. It is held every four years and was last convened in South Korea.

“Our state is an ideal host for high-level international forums,” said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in a statement. Schatz was among those pushed for the meeting to be held in Hawaii.

The event could bring an estimated $37.7 million in visitor spending and $3.6 million in tax revenues, said Brian Lynx of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

The meeting also will give Hawaii a chance to showcase its work on sustainability, conservation and climate change, said Chipper Wichman, director of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, which is based on Kauai.

“This is going to move the needle,” Wichman said. “And this will help Hawaii even more in becoming a global leader in sustainability.”