Governor Lingle heads to China to boost Hawaii's economy

Governor Lingle heads to China to boost Hawaii's economy
Marsha Wienert
Marsha Wienert
Ted Liu
Ted Liu

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU (HAWAII NEWS NOW) - Part diplomat, part cheerleader, Governor Linda Lingle is heading to China this friday for a two-week visit to six cities, including Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

Tourism, business and clean energy in Hawaii - those are three of the major economic platforms the Governor hopes to strengthen, by tapping into China's market.

Hope for Hawaii's slumping economy lies in China.

"This is our opportunity to continue to cement our relationships withHawaii, with one of the most important countries in the world and the largest market for products and services that exist on the planet," said the Governor.

During her upcoming trip to China, Governor Lingle plans to meet with the country's top tourism leaders, to relax visa restrictions there so it'll be easier for tourists from China to visit Hawaii.

"We believe that China has phenomenal potential for us," said Marsha Wienert, State Tourism Liaison.

The latest tourism numbers show visitor arrivals in September are up for the third month in a row, but spending is down.

"It's not how many people come, but how much will they spend and how does that impact the revenues that we collect in taxes," said Governor Lingle.

"Chinese currently spend more on a per person per day than visitor from any geographic area so the dollar impact from them is going to be huge," said Wienert, adding that tourists from China spend an average of $283 per person per day.

It'll be much-needed potential revenue, once Hainan Airlines offers direct flights between China and Honolulu sometime next year, with a minimum of 230 passengers per week. That's a potential of nearly 12,000 more tourists in Hawaii per year.

"Chinese are traveling, and they are spending money. As a matter of fact when I walk around Waikiki now, I'm amazed at the amount of Mandarin Chinese that I'm hearing," said Ted Liu, Director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Also on the Governor's agenda is a meeting with the Chinese Ministry of Commerce to set up what's called a Hawaii House. It's a plan for an exhibition and distribution center in Shanghai, to promote the sale of Hawaii goods.

"We're in the top list. We're in the short list of five states that they'll start this with," said Liu.

The Governor also plans to find investors in China to help achieve the goals outlined in Hawaii's Clean Energy Initiative, a plan to have 70% of Hawaii's energy come from clean energy sources by 2030.

State funds will pay for Governor Lingle's plane ticket, which will cost about $1870.

China will pay for hotel and ground transportation in four of the six cities the Governor's party will visit.

The Governor says she'll use her own money to pay for expenses in Hong Kong.