China-Hawai`i Relationship Showing Growth
By Wendy Osher
The number of visitors to Hawai’i from China is on pace to exceed 2011 numbers and 2012 projections, according to state officials.
The news comes as progress is evaluated on an executive order issued by the president earlier this year that called for a 40% increase in non-immigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil, and shortening wait times for personal interviews to three weeks or less.
To assess progress, the White House today released a New Travel and Tourism Progress Report, highlighting developments made in the travel and tourism industries across the nation.
“This progress report is great news for Hawai`i,” said Lt. Governor Brian Schatz, who was assigned by the governor to lead strategy and development of the Asia Pacific region for the state. “President Obama’s policy is working and in six months, visa processing capacity is up and wait times are down. The China-Hawai`i tourism relationship is growing and the potential for our economy is tremendous,” he said.
Total spending in the first half of the year was $150.6 million, above the $112.3 million set by the Hawai`i Tourism Authority, state officials said. Per person per day spending has also increased from $371 to $407 for travelers from China, already the highest spenders of all visitors to Hawaiʻi.
According to data released in the new progress report, the Department of State passed a 1 million visa milestone in China this year, and is on track to meeting the targeted 40% capacity increase goal.
Officials anticipate a further increase in visa processing capacity in China due to the planned addition of a consulate building in Guangzhou and a consular section in Wuhan. The visa processing capacity in the country is projected to increased by an estimated 120%, compared to 2011 levels, according to the data reviewed by the lt. governor’s office.
Interview wait times in China have also improved, shortened to an average of five days, authorities said.