Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Chinese consul general
looks to foster ties with isles

By B.J. Reyes
Associated Press

HONOLULU >> As Hawaii looks to tap into the burgeoning Chinese tourism market, one diplomat says the state doesn't need to do much more in the way of promoting itself.

"I just told the governor, 'We don't have to promote Hawaii. Everyone in China knows Hawaii and they will come here,"' said Zhong Jianhua, consul general for the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles. "All we have to do is to make some kind of arrangements for that kind of smooth trip."

Zhong left Hawaii yesterday after spending the weekend here "for the friendship and public relations of Hawaii with China."

Although tourism officials have raised concern that some foreign tourists may avoid Hawaii as long as the war in Iraq continues, Zhong did not raise the war issue in talking with reporters on Monday.

His visit included meeting with Gov. Linda Lingle and Ted Liu, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

"We hope (Zhong) will make this a regular stop," Liu said.

With Chinese traveling abroad like never before, Hawaii and other tourist destinations see the huge economic potential in attracting the country's 1.2 billion people.

Chinese represent only a fraction of the tourists that regularly come to Hawaii.

In the first half of 2002, the state welcomed about 3,000 Chinese visitors a month, according to the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

By comparison, the number of visitors from Japan numbered 122,000 this past January alone, according to department figures.

Even state lawmakers see the value in attracting Chinese visitors. Earlier this month, the state House adopted a resolution urging the national Office of Homeland Security to relax restrictions on visas for Chinese citizens for the purpose of business, tourism and study in the United States.

"If travel between Hawaii and China were made easier ... the state's efforts to increase business and tourist travel to Hawaii would be enhanced," the resolution states.

Lingle said she would consider a trip to China sometime in the future. "What a wonderful thing to have the consul general say, 'You don't have to really promote Hawaii in China,"' Lingle said.

Consulate General of China in Los Angeles

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