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Hawaii joins national effort to increase travel to U.S.


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POSTED: Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hawaii has joined the U.S. Travel Association's effort to create a nationally coordinated travel promotion program to shore up international travel to the U.S., which according to the latest U.S. Department of Commerce data was below pre-9/11 levels in 2008.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Travel Promotion Act in 2008, but a Senate companion bill did not receive a vote. In the coming weeks, the Travel Promotion Act is expected to be reintroduced in the 111th Congress, and studies indicate that such a campaign would attract millions of additional overseas visitors per year, resulting in billions of dollars of new visitor spending.

“;We have supported the position as outlined by the U.S. Travel Association from a state level and the national Mayors Association has taken a strong stand in support of those efforts,”; said state Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert.

Both the state and the association are renewing their efforts for a coordinated program following the release yesterday of the Commerce data that showed the U.S. welcomed 633,000 fewer overseas visitors in 2008 than in 2000, despite the fact that there were 48 million more long-haul travelers.

In Hawaii, international visitor arrivals dropped in 2008 to 1.7 million — a 15 percent reduction in visitor arrivals from 2001,Wienert said.

“;Without a travel promotion program, America is leaving money on the table,”; said Roger Dow, president and chief executive of the U.S. Travel Association. “;Our nation is locked in an economic crisis to which overseas visitors hold a key.”;

If U.S. overseas arrivals had kept pace with international long-haul travel trends from 2001 to 2008, America would have welcomed a total of 58 million more visitors, $182 billion in new spending and $27 billion in new tax revenue, the travel association said. These visitors would have supported 245,000 American jobs each year, it said.

“;It is time for Congress to take immediate action as today's global economic crisis and America's strengthening currency will further weaken America's standing as a premier travel destination,”; Dow said.

Wienert said it's hard for individual states to compete against the marketing budgets of other countries and Hawaii would benefit from a nationwide campaign geared to international visitors.

“;If you look at what the pattern is now, Hawaii is often part of a trip to other segments in the U.S.,”; she said. “;If this travel promotion went into effect, we would be able to further leverage Hawaii and build brand awareness.”;