Tourism officials to welcome Chinese
A dinner reception will be held for the first wave of visitors
Hawaii's tourism officials and visitor industry members are gearing up to welcome the first crop of Chinese leisure travelers to the state since an agreement allowing Chinese visitors to make leisure trips to the United States became effective.
China is a fast growing outbound market and Hawaii hopes to cash in.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority and Hilton are expected to host a dinner reception tonight for approximately 160 leisure travelers and tourism officials from Beijing and Guangdong. The group, which is the first set of leisure travelers and Chinese VIPs to come to the United States as a result of the memorandum, also made stops in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
"We were fortunate enough to be one of the first states picked and that bodes well for Hawaii," said Rex Johnson, president of the HTA.
Last week, HTA staff went to China to prepare for the visit and to advocate for further ease of access and nonstop scheduled air seats, Johnson said. Hawaii businesses are also working hard at home to prepare for their newest prime visitor market, whose worldwide outbound travel totals hit 41 million in 2007.
The dinner tonight is designed to give Chinese travelers a taste of Hawaii's foods and entertainment, said Jon Conching, regional vice president of sales and marketing for Hilton Hotels Corp., Hawaii region.
"We want to give them a great lasting memory," Conching said, adding that in preparation for increased Chinese visitor numbers, Hilton is actively recruiting more Chinese speaking employees to work in key guest contact positions.
The increasing importance of China to Hawaii's visitor industry cannot be discounted, said Ed Hubennette, vice president of North Asia, Hawaii and the South Pacific for Marriott Resorts Hawaii.
"As a country, the Chinese are now the number two travelers today behind the United States," he said. "That's amazing when you think that 10 years ago China wasn't even on the map for travel."
China's vast potential has also captured the attention of Hawaii businesses that operate outside of the state's key visitor industry. First Hawaiian Bank, the state's largest credit/debit card processor, announced yesterday that Chinese visitors to Hawaii will be able to use their China Union Pay cards, the country's national credit card brand, at all 281 FHB ATMs statewide and at FHB's network of retail merchants.
"With the recent memorandum of understanding between the China National Tourism Administration and the U.S. Department of Commerce which reduces some of the restrictions on leisure travel, we expect to see a growing tourism segment from China," said Don Horner, FHB's chief executive officer.