Kaua‘i Getting Ahead Of The GameKaua’i Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho Jr., accompanied by county government and tourism officials, welcomed visitors from Shanghai in late January. The nearly 150 business executives and their spouses represented the first of what will be several more groups from China to visit Kaua’i in the coming months.
As I noted in a recent MidWeek column, the combination of the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s push into China and other promising Asian travel markets, backed by the Obama administration’s recent announcement of its efforts to stimulate international travel, bode well for the Garden Island and the entire state, for that matter.
The U.S. Travel Association tells us that recapturing the 17 percent international market share we’ve lost could add 98 million more visitors, create 1.3 million more jobs by 2020, and inject nearly $860 billion into the U.S. economy.
For the China market, in particular, changes in our visa approval process will have a far-reaching effect on travel from that country.
Prospective travelers from China have complained of waits as long as three months or more for visa interviews at U.S. consulates, which are located in only a handful of Chinese cities.
The president’s directive stipulates that the departments of State and Homeland Security have targets of increasing nonimmigrant visa processing capacity for China by 40 percent this year, ensuring that 80 percent of these visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application, and stepping up efforts to expand the visa waiver program.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has requested that the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano add Taiwan to the list of 36 countries now on the visa waiver program.
The state’s marketing efforts, promotions by public and private sector partners, and Hawaii’s hosting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November, which the Chinese president attended, have helped to put Hawaii front-andcenter among competing destinations seeking to lure the Chinese traveler.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority is embarking on a major marketing initiative to entice more visitors from China, to include increasing the lift capacity to Hawaii. Hotel properties across the state are ramping up their efforts to train their employees, and plans are under way to make the Hawaii experience more appealing to the Chinese traveler.
To their credit, Mayor Carvalho and Kaua’i have not wasted any time in making the best use of these opportunities.
Their welcoming of the Chinese visitors will no doubt pay dividends as the travelers return home to tell associates, family and friends of the hospitality of their Kaua’i hosts.
In addition, the involvement of Mayor Carvalho and Hawaii Island Mayor Billy Kenoi in the U.S. Conference of Mayors also will help promote the visitor industry because the organization has made travel and tourism one of its top-10 national priorities.
During my membership, this association of mayors from across the country lobbied hard for the passage of the Travel Promotion Act and other travel-friendly measures by the federal government, and Hawaii’s continued representation in the conference will ensure that we have a voice at the national level. And Hawaii’s congressional delegation has made international travel to America a priority.
It’s gratifying to see that Hawaii’s government and tourism officials and private sector leaders have collaborated and worked hard to woo Chinese travelers and take advantage of this chance to give us a head start in the race to tap this enormous market.
MUFI’S VISITOR HEROES
Position: Nanea Server
Location: Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas
Sarah Mangold, a server at Nanea Restaurant at Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas, has turned adversity into a passion for healthy living that has spread throughout the property.
Sarah was diagnosed with cancer a number of years ago, and decided to change her diet as one remedy. She began cultivating her own fruits and vegetables, and has been so successful that she and co-workers have sold the produce to raise funds for local charities. Sarah volunteered to serve on Westin Princeville’s sustainability committee and created an herb garden that is used on Nanea’s dinner and cocktail menus, and which has had the added benefit of saving the resort money. Her input led to the purchase of recycling bins for each villa. She even led the recycling efforts at Westin’s annual golf tournament, making sure beverage containers were saved and leftover food was donated to a local pig farmer.
In her free time, Sarah Mangold volunteers to teach art at her son’s school and elsewhere.