Visitor industry growth, economic cooperation, streamlining the visa process, and the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference topped the agenda of Governor Neil Abercrombie's recent trip to Asia.
The Governor visited Tokyo, Okinawa, and Beijing. While in China, he met with Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs Charles Bennett at the U.S. Embassy to learn more about some of the difficulties that potential Chinese visitors face in obtaining visas.
"I was encouraged by our Embassy and by Chinese leaders to pursue expediting the visa process," said Governor Abercrombie. "In order to attract more visitors from China, the State Department is working to streamline the visa process. I'm happy my relationships in Washington put me in a position where I can be helpful in coordinating with this effort."
Governor Abercrombie also met with Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Cui Tiankai and Chairman Shao Qiwei of the Chinese National Tourism Administration.
"These high officials are very much aware of the Chinese-Hawai'i visitor potential and I believe we have established an excellent working relationship," added Governor Abercrombie.
According to the Hawai'i Tourism Authority (HTA), in 2010 Hawai'i welcomed 62,032 visitors from China, an increase of 48 percent over 2009; per person per day spending was $351, up 23 percent; and per person per trip spending was $2,076, up 4 percent. The HTA projects approximately 91,000 Chinese visitors will arrive in 2011, up 37% over 2010.
Governor Abercrombie also met with 35 travel industry leaders throughout Japan and China which were organized by the HTA.
HTA President and CEO Michael McCartney said, "No other Hawai'i governor has traveled so early on his or her administration to Japan and China, and our partners recognize his outreach and commitment to Hawai'i's number one industry."
While in Japan, the Governor expressed the state's ongoing support as they rebuild from the March earthquake and tsunami.
"The Governor was well-received wherever he went. He understands the role that the Asian market plays in our tourism industry but he also cares very much for the people in these countries," noted McCartney.
The Asia trip also afforded Governor Abercrombie the opportunity to build new relationships in anticipation of the upcoming APEC conference.
"This is our chance to showcase that Hawai'i is much more than just a visitor destination," said Governor Abercrombie. "The leaders from APEC's 21-member economies will learn that our islands are the perfect gathering place to conduct business."
Photos of the Governor's trip can be accessed here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/neilabercrombie/sets/72157627872287544/