First visa-free visitor from South Korea arrives - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

First visa-free visitor from South Korea arrives

Austin Kang Austin Kang

By Tracy Gladden - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - 80,000. That's the number of visitors expected within the next year from South Korea. Its citizens take advantage of lifted travel restrictions.

An excited visitor from South Korea arrives at Honolulu International Airport. Members of the South Korean press snap pictures of the first tourist who didn't have to go through the long and difficult visa process.

"Without a visa they can come over here for tourism purposes, business purposes, they can come here at any time whenever they feel like it," Austin Kang, co-chair of the Korean Visa Waiver Committee said.

South korea joins 27 other countries in the visa waiver program.

"We've been working so hard together to be a new member of the visa waiver program from 2003," said Kang.

South Korean citizens can now enter the United States with an e-passport and stay for up to 90 days.

"Small cities or small rural areas they can issue that passport so pretty soon a lot of people can come," said Kang.

It's part of the Lingle-Aiona Administration's, five-point plan, to stimulate our state's tourism industry. The Hawaii Tourism Authority has increased marketing efforts in South Korea.

"We think sooner or later it will double or triple."

Kang says the number of South Korean tourists coming to Hawaii could reach 160,000 by 2010. But it may take time for the visa waiver program to have an impact in Hawaii because South Korea's economy is going through the same economic downturn.

Last week, Lieutenant Governor Duke Aiona, met with tourism officials in South Korea to encourage more flights to the islands.

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