Categorized | Business

Hirono touts estimated 6,000 jobs for Hawaii

From Congresswoman Mazie Hirono:

In this time of shrinking wallets and global economic uncertainty, creating jobs is vital to the financial health of our people, Hawaii, and our nation. Unfortunately, political gridlock has held Congress back when it comes to advancing bills that will help create jobs.

However, as we start a new year, I’m hopeful that we can find ways to work together to get our economy moving. Travel and tourism is an area that can bridge the political gridlock. This is why I introduced the Visa Improvements to Stimulate International Tourism to the United States of America (VISIT USA) Act with my colleague, Congressman David Dreier (R-CA).

The bipartisan VISIT USA Act will help us welcome more visitors to Hawaii and the United States.

Looking at Chinese visitors alone, it is clear that there is a huge, untapped market.

In 2010, more than 54 million Chinese citizens traveled abroad. Europe welcomed 3.7 million of these visitors. However, the U.S. only saw 800,000 Chinese visitors — and only 62,000 came to Hawaii.

Part of why so many visitors are going elsewhere is that our visa process is difficult. We only have five consulates in China, which makes wait times long and expensive for families that have to travel great distances for visa interviews.

Plus, once Chinese visitors finally get a visa, it’s only good for one year — instead of 10 years, which is true for many other countries.

The VISIT USA Act will allow Chinese visitors to have a 5-year multiple entry visa and enable the U.S. State Department to use a video conferencing pilot program to help with visa interviews.

This is just one common-sense provision that can help make it easier for visitors to come to our country, and generate jobs in our travel and tourism industry.

We estimate these, along with other improvements in the bill, will help us attract nearly 300,000 visitors yearly to Hawaii from China, Canada and other high-growth markets.

With that many visitors, we’re estimating Hawaii could see nearly $600 million being injected into our economy.

With over 7 million Americans drawing paychecks in the travel and tourism industry – well over 150,000 people in Hawaii alone – boosting tourism is going to help create more jobs and expand this industry.

In fact, Mike McCartney, executive director of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, has estimated that we could see potentially 6,000 new jobs created in Hawaii as a result of the reforms in the VISIT USA Act.

We know visitors love to share in our aloha and our beautiful state. As Chef Roy Yamaguchi, a board member of Brand USA, the public-private partnership charged with marketing the U.S., said, “With Brand USA promoting the greatest destination in the world, efforts to increase the ability of travelers to come here allows us to achieve great things for the U.S. economy.”

These are a few of the reasons why both Democrats and Republicans, as well as groups like the Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Travel Association, and the U.S. Olympic Committee are behind the VISIT USA Act.

By supporting common-sense visa reforms, we can give Hawaii’s workers and families what they really need: jobs. And that’s what I’m fighting for.

As always, please stay in touch: visit my website to send an email, call my District Office at (808) 541-1986 or send me a tweet at @maziehirono.

The direct (free) numbers to call my office from the neighbor islands are:

Hawaii Island — 935-3756
Kauai & Niihau — 245-1951
Lanai — 565-7199
Maui — 242-1818
Molokai — 552-0160

Mazie K. Hirono
Member of Congress
2nd District of Hawaii

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