Hawaii legislator works to reform tourist visa policies

HONOLULU, Hawaii – In 2010, more than 54 million Chinese citizens traveled abroad.

Hawaii legislator works to reform tourist visa policies

HONOLULU, Hawaii – In 2010, more than 54 million Chinese citizens traveled abroad. Europe welcomed 3.7 million of these visitors, but the US only saw 800,000 Chinese visitors, of which only 62,000 came to Hawaii. On average, if it were easier for Chinese to visit Hawaii, it is estimated that visitors would stay in the Aloha state for 6 days, spending US$350 a day, contributing US$573 million to Hawaii’s economy.

Clearly, the US needs to cut its red tape and reform US visa policies. Should this occur, it is estimated that potentially 280,000 visitors yearly from China, Canada, and other high-growth markets would travel to Hawaii. This is why bipartisan legislation to improve US visa policies was recently introduced by Hawaii Democratic Rep. Mazie K. Hirono along with California Republican Rep. David Dreier.

The Visa Improvements to Stimulate International Tourism to the United States of America Act, or VISIT USA Act, would establish 5-year multiple entry visas for Chinese visitors, extend the time Canadian retirees can stay in the US, make changes to the Visa Waiver Program, and make other low-cost reforms that will increase tourism in the US.

Said Congresswoman Hirono: “The Pacific region is a vast market for new visitors. Reforming our visa process is a cost-effective, common-sense way to make it easier and more inviting for international businesses and tourists to come to Hawaii and the US. It’s why this is an idea both Democrats and Republicans are behind.”

“The VISIT USA Act is great news for Hawai‘i’s tourism economy,” said Mike McCartney, President and CEO of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, “Improvements to the visa process and other policy changes will help to ease access and make visiting the US and Hawai’i more convenient for many international visitors. We are encouraged by this legislation and the potential it has to boost, not only visitor arrivals and spending, but also our state’s economy through increased commerce and job growth.

“In fact, using estimates from the US Department of Commerce, we could see potentially 6,000 new jobs created in Hawai’i as a result of the reforms in the VISIT USA Act.”

Roy Yamaguchi, Board Member of Brand USA, commented: “Other countries are aggressively pooling their national resources and staking a larger claim in the international tourism industry. I applaud efforts like the VISIT USA Act and other proposals to facilitate travel to the United States. With Brand USA promoting the greatest destination in the world, efforts to increase the ability of travelers to come here allows us to achieve great things for the US economy.”

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