Obama signs off on new tourism
By: Ian Scheuring
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) –
Local officials are applauding an Executive Order signed by President Barack
Obama on Thursday, saying it contains several new measures that will help
increase travel and tourism to Hawaii.
The Executive Order establishing “Visa
and Foreign Visitor Processing Goals and the Task Force on Travel and
Competitiveness” stipulates that non-immigrant visa
processing capacity in China and Brazil will increase by 40% in 2012 while
ensuring that 80% of non-immigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three
weeks of receipt of application. A new website with information and statistics on
visa processes will be designed to assist travelers and the tourism industry.
According to the Hawaii
Tourism Authority, Honolulu is the fifth busiest U.S. point-of-entry, with 2.4
million international visitors arriving in the state each year. Arrivals from
China are expected to reach 748,779 in 2012, more than 28% more than 2011.
Chinese visitors also
spend around $380 per person per day while in Hawaii, more than any other
The Executive Order also requests
that the Department of Homeland Security consider Taiwan for the Visa Waiver
Program, where participating nationals can travel to the United States for
tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.
Officials say that more than 60% of international tourists do not require a
U.S. visa, citing the program.
After Korea was included
in the Department of Homeland Security’s Visa Waiver Program, visitor arrivals
from the region increased by 35%. Similar growth is expected from Taiwan, should
they also be included in the program.
Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie says
that he has advocated changes in the visa processing system in the past, and
believes the executive order will help make international travel in the United
States more accessible.
“The President’s announcement
today is a wonderful New Year’s gift to the people of Hawaii,” Governor
Abercrombie said. “President Obama clearly understands that improving the visa
and foreign visitor processing and travel promotion will spur economic
growth. We look forward to experiencing
that growth here in Hawaii.”
Lieutenant Governor Brian
Schatz believes discussions during last November’s Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation summit helped lead to some of the changes revealed Thursday.
“These are precisely the kinds of actions
that we pushed for during APEC in November,” Schatz said. “Alleviating wait
times will be tremendously helpful as we attempt to build a stronger China-Hawai`i
tourism relationship. A visa waiver program in Taiwan is great news and we can
anticipate increased visitors to Hawai`i and economic opportunities in the
Those wishing to view the President’s
Executive Order establishing Visa and Foreign Visitor Processing Goals and the
Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness can do so at the following link: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/01/19/executive-order-establishing-visa-and-foreign-visitor-processing-goals-a.
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