Local Officials Push to Open Travel for Chinese

Rex Johnson
Rex Johnson

WAIKIKI (KHNL) - Hawaii's missing out on potentially millions of visitors every year. And two top local officials are trying to change that.

China has the biggest number of travelers in Asia -- it's double that from Japan. And local officials want a piece of that huge pie.

Waikiki is filled with tourists. But many feel there could be even more if more Chinese are allowed in the U.S.

"Almost everybody in the world is looking towards the China market as part of the tourism future," said Rex Johnson, president of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann is asking the Bush administration to expand Chinese travel to America, and streamline the visa application process. He sees China as the next Japan.

"We believe we can enjoy similar success with China if we're able to ease some of the travel restriction to our country," said Hannemann.

More than 17-million Japanese traveled last year, with more than a million coming to Hawaii.

Compare that to 34-million Chinese travelers last year, with only 50,000 coming to the islands.

"They're exporting huge amounts of people, and that's obviously business that tourism and travel industry in the United States would like to have a slice of," said Johnson.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority has also made that proposal, with no luck.

"The world's becoming a smaller place," said Johnson. "China, obviously, has a huge population and i think from a business prospective, I think the U.S. government cannot afford to overlook that."

A big problem is the increased security measures in the U.S. since September 11th, and the fact that China is a communist country.

So the chances for the proposal might not be too good, but local officials are still pushing.