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Obama Easing Visa Rules Good for Hawaii

Posted January 19, 2012, 12:32 PM HST Updated January 19, 2012, 04:52 PM HST

President Barack Obama. Courtesy of Hawaii News Now.

By Sonia Isotov

Today’s announcement by President Obama to ease travel and tourism restrictions in the United States was lauded by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) officials as highly beneficial to Hawaii’s economy.

An estimated 154,000 jobs could protentially be provided as a result of the president’s Executive Order to ease access for international travelers to visit Hawaii and the rest of the United States.

“With 2.4 million international visitors arriving in our state each year, Honolulu is the fifth busiest US point-of-entry,” said Mike McCartney, president and chief executive officer of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, in a written statement today. “China is an emerging market for Hawaii’s tourism industry with unprecedented growth potential.”

McCartney expects Chinese visitor arrivals to reach 125,394 in 2012, up 28% over 2011, with Chinese visitors spending $380 per person per day, higher than any other market.

“The president’s initiatives to increase the number of Chinese visas processed and ensure that visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks are huge milestones for Chinese tourism to the US and Hawaii.”

front street lahaina

Front Street. Courtesy of HVCB.


Visa waiver status for Taiwan is another significant milestone for our industry. Following the Visa Waiver Program with Korea in 2008, arrivals from the region increased 35% and has grown year-after-year. And the HTA would anticipate seeing similar growth out of Taiwan.

“We have seen considerable growth from Asia and today’s announcement will help us continue with this momentum following the world-wide attention on our state during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC),” added McCartney.

“We also believe that our Hawai‘i Business Roundtable meeting with US Commerce Secretary John Bryson during APEC Leaders’ Week and HTA’s involvement with the US Travel Association also contributed to quick action by President Obama on this Travel and Tourism initiative.”

Hawaii’s strategic location connecting the Asia-Pacific region also provides visitors from Asia a close point-of-entry into the United States. These efforts will go further to establishing Hawaii as a global destination and benefiting the state’s economy.


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