H.R. NO.













urging The inclusion of the people's republic of china in the visa waiver program.




     WHEREAS, tourism is Hawaii's largest single source of private capital, creating $1,300,000,000 in state tax revenues annually and providing one-hundred forty-five thousand jobs statewide; and


     WHEREAS, diversifying Hawaii's tourism industry to accommodate a substantial Chinese market-base will develop a broader foundation for the tourism industry in Hawaii as a whole; and


     WHEREAS, the world's second largest economy, the People's Republic of China is now a major trade partner with the United States, a force for stability and peace in Asia, and a world leader in the auto market and the world's largest producer of energy; and


     WHEREAS, the People's Republic of China has 1.3 billion people, representing a very large and lucrative pool of visitors; and


     WHEREAS, Hawaii has a long and noteworthy history with the People's Republic of China, the origin of Hawaii's first sugar plantation laborers and of a past Chinese president who was educated in Hawaii; and


     WHEREAS, according to the Department of State, the United States government processed more than one million visas for Chinese applicants during fiscal year 2011; and


     WHEREAS, the United States is in competition with other countries for tourism business from the People's Republic of China, with Canada recently granting the People's Republic of China a ten year visa and France having a more efficient visa process for Chinese travelers, thereby capturing eighteen percent more visitors last year; and


     WHEREAS, although certain travel restrictions are reasonable, especially in light of the continuing threat of terrorism, other restrictions not only are illogical but also hurt states like Hawaii that depend heavily on the visitor industry; and


     WHEREAS, the tourism industry remains the backbone of Hawaii's economy, and any restriction that impedes visitors' access to Hawaii correspondingly hurts the economy, and Chinese travelers cite the expense and difficulty of obtaining a visa as one of the key reasons for deciding to travel to countries other than the United States; and


     WHEREAS, one solution to ease this problem is for a country to be admitted to the Department of State's Visa Waiver Program, which allows nationals from foreign countries to enter the United States for tourism or business-related purposes for as long as ninety days without obtaining a visa; and


     WHEREAS, members of Hawaii's business and government communities welcomed two hundred seventy-one passengers at Honolulu International Airport from China Eastern Airlines' inaugural direct flight from Shanghai in August 2011; and


     WHEREAS, the average Chinese tourist to Hawaii spends about $368 per day, compared to $275 daily for a Japanese tourist and $178 per day for all tourists to Hawaii; and


     WHEREAS, the United States Senate advanced legislation that would add twenty new consular officers and other measures that would expedite visa processing in the People's Republic of China; and


     WHEREAS, in order for a country to qualify for the Visa Waiver Program, the country must satisfy certain conditions, with the United States government retaining the ultimate discretion to admit the country to the program; and

     WHEREAS, one condition for entry into the waiver program is the rate of refusal of a country's visa applicants which must be three percent or lower; and


     WHEREAS, the refusal rate for Chinese visa applicants was 13.3 percent as of last year; and


     WHEREAS, the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board recommended that easing visa restrictions and the visa application and approval process should include:


     (1)  Raising the visa refusal rate from three to ten percent;


     (2)  Establishing a maximum wait time for in-person visa interviews of five days;


     (3)  Adding four to six visa processing locations and several hundred consulate officers to process visas; and


     (4)  Allowing non-immigrant visas to last ten years for Chinese visitors, which is permitted in other countries; and


     WHEREAS, both Japan and South Korea qualify for visa waivers; and


     WHEREAS, when South Korea became one of the thirty-six countries in the Department of State's Visa Waiver Program in November of 2008, it boosted tourism to Hawaii from that country; now, therefore,


     BE IT RESOLVED by the House of Representatives of the Twenty-sixth Legislature of the State of Hawaii, Regular Session of 2012, that the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice are urged to include the People's Republic of China in the Visa Waiver Program and to support the recommendations of the Travel and

Tourism Advisory Board to ease visa restrictions and the visa application and approval process for business and tourist travelers from the People's Republic of China; and


     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that certified copies of this Resolution be transmitted to the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the United States Attorney General.









Report Title: 

Tourism Industry; Visa Waiver Program