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Hawaii Tourism Authority Applauds Obama Tourism PlanJanuary 20, 2012 By: Jena Tesse Fox
Yesterday, U.S. President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order and announced new initiatives to significantly increase travel and tourism in the United States. A statement from the White House Press Secretary noted that the U.S. tourism and travel industry "is a substantial component of U.S. GDP and employment," representing 2.7 percent of GDP and 7.5 million jobs in 2010. The travel and tourism industry projects that more than 1 million American jobs could be created over the next decade if the U.S. increased its share of the international travel market. The announcement offers important steps to bolster job creation through a range of steps to better promote the United States as a tourism destination and improve secure visa processing.
The Executive Order (which can be read in full here) charges several agencies to take part in efforts to increase travel and tourism in the United States.
The Miami Herald noted that the president’s speech was very different from a 2009 appearance when he urged companies not to plan meetings in luxury resorts after an AIG subsidiary spent more than $440,000 on a meeting shortly after the firm received a taxpayer bailout. Since then, industry representatives have met frequently with the White House to emphasize the importance of tourism to the economy, and officials from tourism organizations, retail-trade groups, and American Airlines applauded Thursday’s announcement. Under nearly all previous administrations, tourism promotion has been left to regional agencies and the private sector.
Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said that the announcement will be "highly beneficial to Hawaii's tourism economy." With 2.4 million international visitors arriving in the state each year, Honolulu is the fifth-busiest U.S. point-of-entry. "The President's Executive Order will ease access for international travelers to visit our Hawaiian Islands as well as the rest of the United States.
"China is an emerging market for Hawaii's tourism industry with unprecedented growth potential. Arrivals are expected to reach 125,394 in 2012, up 28 percent 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 ensuring that visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks are huge milestones for Chinese tourism to the U.S. and Hawaii.
"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 percent and has grown year-after-year. And we 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). We also believe that our Hawaii Business Roundtable meeting with U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson during APEC Leaders' Week and HTA's involvement with the U.S. 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 further establish our state as a global destination and benefit our state's economy. Tourism continues to be the largest generator of jobs in Hawaii and these initiatives will help to stimulate job growth for our residents."