Hawai'i's credentials as a serious business meetings destination were validated by the successful hosting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Meeting in November 2011, which was attended by President Barack Obama and heads-of-state, finance ministers, CEOs, and nearly 20,000 delegates from 21 nations. Kurt Tong, then-U.S. Ambassador for APEC, praised Hawai'i's performance in a Honolulu Star-Advertiser story, saying, "Hawai'i gets an A-plus. It's a shared home run for Hawai'i and for the United States."The overall cost to meet in Hawai'i often has a better cost-to-value ratio than other top-tier cities in North America. The cost of lodging and food is often lower than in many places on the continental United States. Airlift from cities throughout North America and Asia is plentiful and airfares are competitively priced. According to NCPERS, the hotel rate for their annual meeting at the Hilton Hawaiian Village is 44 percent below the cost of accommodations for their 2012 annual meeting in New York City. (NCPERS previously held its annual meeting in Honolulu in 2007.) "Hawai'i stands on its own merits as a premier location to host meetings and conventions," said Gov. Abercrombie. "And when it's done in Hawai'i, planners are assured of the value they are getting. They know their events will be invigorating while allowing attendees to relax, think clearly, collaborate and, most importantly, fulfill their business objectives." The Hawai'i Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) is contracted by the Hawai'i Tourism Authority (HTA), the state of Hawai'i's tourism agency, to provide marketing management services for the meetings, conventions and incentives and leisure market segment. HTA was established in 1998 to ensure a successful visitor industry well into the future. Its mission is to strategically manage Hawai'i tourism in a sustainable manner consistent with the state of Hawai'i's economic goals, cultural values, preservation of natural resources, community desires, and visitor industry needs.