Waikiki at night

Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO Mike McCartney urged U.S. senators Thursday to reestablish the Kona Airport as an international port of entry and expand the Visa Waiver program, along with other steps to help boost Hawaii’s tourism industry. 

According to a press release by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, McCartney spoke on Thursday in Washington, D.C. during a hearing titled “The State of the U.S. Travel and Tourism: Industry Efforts to Attract 100 Million Visitors Annually,” held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Tourism, Competitiveness, and Innovation.

Hawaii’s $14.5 billion visitors industry makes up 20 percent of the state’s GDP. McCartney said the state experienced record growth in visitor spending in 2013. 

Given that Hawaii is the fourth largest international entry point in the U.S., McCartney asked members of Congress to allow Hawaii to grant a five-year exemption to allow Kona Airport to serve as an international port of entry. 

He listed the benefits of expanding the Visa Waiver program to Korea and Taiwan, and asked lawmakers to consider opening the program to other countries.

McCartney’s other requests included creating federal tax credits for new hotels to help Hawaii compete with Mexico and the Carribean; supporting federal funding for airports and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and reestablishing the Brand USA program. 

Photo: Waikiki at night (Anita Hofschneider/Civil Beat) 

— Anita Hofschneider

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