The US state of Hawaii has signed an agreement with China that it hopes will boost travel to the islands and that Beijing hopes will win it access to Hawaii's tourism management expertise.
"The agreement helps us to continue to spread the word in China about Hawaii," Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle said. "When they think of a place to visit, we'd like them to think about Hawaii."
Vice-Premier Wu Yi said at the ceremony that Hawaii had important expertise in the fields of tourism planning, management and personnel training. Wu made a stop at the islands on her way to Washington for bilateral trade talks.
These skills could "serve as valuable reference for the Chinese tourism industry", she said.
Hawaii is eager to lure more of China's increasingly prosperous international travelers to support the state's tourism industry.
In 2004, the number of Chinese visitors to the state had already risen by 34.5 percent, to 34,216 travelers, from the year before.
But Hawaii captured only a fraction of the estimated 27 million Chinese who traveled overseas that year.
Japan is the single largest source of foreign tourists to Hawaii, with 1.48 million Japanese visiting the islands in 2004.
Lingle and Shao Qiwei, the chairman of the China National Tourism Administration, signed the document.
According to the agreement, the two sides will facilitate travel between China and the US. It also outlines a programme for Chinese tourism industry professionals to study in Hawaii.
There are obstacles, however, to any immediate increase in visitor numbers to Hawaii. The US has not been granted Approved Destination Status (ADS), which means that travel agencies are not authorized to conduct tours for Chinese travelers. The majority of visitors to the US are businessmen and students.
This is a disadvantage for Hawaii because 70 percent of China’s outbound travelers prefer packaged tours with local travel agencies, according to statistics.
As at the end of March, 117 countries have been given ADS by China's State Council. Of these, domestic travel agencies have developed approved tours to 81.
(China Daily April 5, 2006)