U.S. should end obstruction of tourism from China
Rep. Ed Case is asking the Bush administration to remove diplomatic and bureaucratic barriers to tourism from China.
CHINA is the talk of the tourism industry, with numerous countries vying for the new market while the United States is left standing at the gate. The Bush administration should heed pleas that it seek removal of diplomatic and bureaucratic barriers against Chinese tourists visiting the United States.
Rep. Ed Case has written a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff urging that they expedite negotiations aimed at China granting "approved destination status" to the United States. Countries now enjoying the economic fruit of such status number 90, with 64 joining the list since January.
Federal regulations require an onerous and time-consuming visa process that discourages Chinese citizens from traveling to the United States. The overstay rate for Chinese visitors who were issued temporary visas exceeds the limit aimed at discouraging migration. China also is regarded as America's top espionage threat.
The rigid policy arising from those considerations has enormous economic consequences. Nearly 30 million Chinese traveled abroad last year. By 2020, that figure is expected to rise to 115 million, making China the world's largest source of outbound tourism, according to a study by CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, a Hong Kong-based brokerage firm.
Beijing reached agreement for 25 European countries a year ago and Britain in July to receive approved destination status. Canada is seeking to receive the status by the end of this year. While 75 percent of Chinese outbound tourism is to Hong Kong and Macao, surveys show that Chinese travelers put Europe at the top of most desired spots.
Only 13,000 Chinese tourists visited Hawaii last year, and that figure is not likely to increase significantly without an easing of visa requirements. Hawaii gained permission this year to open a Beijing office aimed at luring new business and tourism, but the diplomatic obstacles stand in the way of China becoming a third pillar in the state's tourism industry.
Preliminary talks between Washington and Beijing about destination status were scheduled to begin in July, following a trip to China by state and business officials. In the absence of an agreement, Case said in his letter to Rice and Chertoff that steps can be taken to hasten visa processing.
While achieving an agreement for destination status is the desired goal, bureaucratic obstructions prevent Hawaii from advancing tourism within the confines of the rules.
During his trip to China in August, Case said consuls general told him that visa interview delays of at least six weeks were due to "insufficient consular resources" to process applications. Allowing that problem to continue is inexcusable.
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