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Brighter days are ahead for Taiwan and the United States.
More than 60 years after WW II. ended, the doors are finally opening to allow Taiwan citizens to visit our country without the hassle of procuring a costly visa.
It is a happy and joyful time for all of us.
Special thanks to the Editor of the Honolulu Star Advertiser who authorized us to re-print the complete newspaper article in this blog.
The article begins below:
The article begins below:
The first major boom in Taiwanese travelers to Hawaii as a result of the nation's newfound visa waiver status should start to hit next spring.
However, Hawaii's travel trade, government leaders and businesses are already gearing up to take advantage of the policy change, which was announced by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Tuesday.
Starting Nov. 1 the U.S. will begin permitting visa-free travel for eligible Taiwanese travelers who are visiting for up to 90 days for business or tourism. The move is expected to bring additional Taiwanese tourists to Hawaii and increase the chances there will be direct flights between the destinations. Eventually it also could foster additional opportunities for business and trade, clean energy and economic development initiatives, film, study-aboard programs and governmental relationships.
"As we've learned from Japan and Korea, the tourism market is usually the first to grow, and then other opportunities grow from that," said Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz.
Hawaii is expected to see visitor arrivals from Taiwan rise significantly, as did the number of visitors from South Korea after it achieved visa waiver status in 2008, said Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO Mike McCartney.
Following the Visa Waiver Program with Korea in 2008, Korean arrivals increased by 35 percent in 2009 and have continued to increase by double digits since then, McCartney said. Visitor expenditures have also increased to $194 million last year from $79.4 million in 2008, he said.
"Korea has become one of the fastest-growing markets for our tourism economy. We anticipate seeing similar growth out of Taiwan following their entrance to the visa waiver program," McCartney said.
State, city and business leaders have been aggressively courting Taiwan for the past 18 months or so in preparation for the coming visa waiver, Schatz said.
"We've had a very intense focus on Taiwan, and it's beginning to bear fruit," he said.
Last year Hawaii welcomed 8,186 visitors from Taiwan and, even without the visa waiver, had projected that the market would grow to 10,642 arrivals by the end of 2012. The numbers have been growing since last November's announcement that a visa waiver would come, said Michael Merner, executive director of Hawaii Tourism Asia, which is part of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
From January to August this year, Merner said, Taiwanese visitors to Hawaii rose by about 39 percent. Since January, Merner said, unique visitors to the Hawaii Tourism Taiwan website increased by 50 percent.
"Travel agents have been eagerly awaiting visa waiver status to the U.S., and now that it is here, we can expect continued strong growth in arrivals out of the Taiwan market," he said.
Hawaii Tourism Asia will spend the coming months working with major Taiwanese travel agents to develop new Hawaii packages, Merner said. The office also will work with the major airlines to push for a 2013 launch of direct flights from Taipei to Honolulu, Merner said.
THE HTA plans to spend a portion of a $2 million marketing fund, which was earmarked by the state Legislature this year for international development, to increase travel from Taiwan to the Hawaiian Islands, McCartney said.
Hawaii tourism officials also are working to augment the daily service offered by China Airlines from Taipei to Honolulu via Japan, he said.
It's conceivable that nonstop service between Taiwan and Hawaii will follow the visa waiver, said Brad DiFiore, co-founder and managing partner of Atlanta-based Ailevon Air Service Consulting.
"EVA Air and China Airlines have publically said that they would do it, but what they say and what they do could be different," DiFiore said.
Since Taiwan serves as a transfer point to Hawaii from other parts of Asia, nonstop service could increase travel from other markets, too.
"This could really tip the scales in our favor," said Randy Tanaka, assistant general manager of the Hawai‘i Convention Center. "This enhances our reputation as an international destination that can pull people from all corners of the world."
For now, Merner said, he anticipates a strong increase in Taiwanese family and incentive group arrivals. Under the previous policy, Merner said, Taiwanese travelers typically had to travel to Taipei to obtain a visa, which cost about $160 and took anywhere from two to four weeks to receive. The process was particularly onerous for Taiwanese travelers who lived outside of Taipei since they often had to stay overnight to obtain a U.S. visa, he said.
"For families and incentive groups, this is a huge burden which now disappears with the visa waiver program," Merner said.
The visa waiver increases the possibility of hosting more Taiwanese leisure travelers, said Jerry Gibson, Hilton area vice president and managing director of Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort.
"Typically we've hosted government or business travelers from the Taiwan market," said Gibson, whose hotel hosted the Taiwanese delegation during last November's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
Now Hilton is stepping up efforts to welcome these visitors back by adding ethnic cuisine to its menus and offering a special tea service.
"We believe that the more international travelers feel at home, the more they will come," Gibson said.
Retailers and other businesses also are getting in on the action, said Dave Erdman, president and CEO of PacRim Marketing Group Inc. and PRTech LLC.
"Some of our clients are well into production and preparation for the visa waiver status with localized materials and outreach," Erdman said. "Others are working on plans for early 2013."
Erdman said his firm is looking for client opportunities to support marketing efforts, including missions, trade fairs or agent or media familiarization trips. He also has advised clients to add traditional Chinese language to websites and marketing materials because that is the format preferred by the Taiwanese market.
Royal Hawaiian Center has been working with Toby Tamaye, president of At Marketing, to grow its share of Taiwanese travelers, said Sam Shenkus, RHC marketing director. RHC translated its press kits into traditional Chinese five years ago and now is modifying its maps and moving toward adjusting its website, Shenkus said.
"We're on it," she said.
Ala Moana Center Group Marketing Manager Scott Creel said that by year's end the center will introduce a traditional Chinese-language website and will unveil a video channel on YouTube Taiwan.
"This will allow all Taiwanese visitors who are planning a trip to Hawaii to see the breadth and depth of the merchandise that we have available," Creel said.