From Ed Case, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate:
Last week I began rolling out my Senate agenda with My Agenda #1: Growing Our Economy. One of my top action items was to strengthen what we do best.
We do tourism best, best in the world. But we cannot depend on yesterday and today to ensure Hawaii tourism remains strong tomorrow.
Your Senator must provide strong leadership in DC that knows Hawaii tourism and advocates effectively for national policies to strengthen this pillar of our Hawaii economy. Here’s my agenda for doing so, to go with my thirty years of private sector experience working with our tourism industry and my advocacy of Hawaii tourism throughout my prior Congressional and state legislative service.
Ten Principles. My actions for Hawaii tourism will be guided by these ten principles:
(1) At around 25 percent of our economy and jobs, tourism is a natural for us as our top single industry.
(2) We cannot take Hawaii tourism for granted; we face increasing competition both nationally and around the world.
(3) We can best help Hawaii tourism by growing our national economy; visitors visit and businesses employ and invest when our economy is strong.
(4) We can best help Hawaii tourism by assuring international stability, especially with the Asia-Pacific region; foreign tourism relies directly on foreign relations.
(5) Our top priority must be Chinese tourism; we have not had such an opportunity to strengthen tourism since the opening of Japanese tourism decades ago.
(6) We must focus on the Big E for visitors: ease of travel, in obtaining permission to visit (visas), getting here and back (flights) and entering (immigration and customs).
(7) We must continue to diversify our visitors’ options and experiences, from Waikiki to the Neighbor Islands, from traditional to ecotourism, health care tourism and beyond.
(8) Tourism is mutually dependent on many other efforts; when we strengthen small business, protect our environment, or sustain our host culture, we strengthen tourism.
(9) Our federal government has a direct role in strengthening tourism, especially in foreign relations and the Big E, and a supporting role in providing fair and stable economic and tax policies.
(10) A Senator matters, from forging stable foreign and national policy, to advocating for Hawaii tourism in both DC and overseas, to helping individual Hawaii citizens and businesses with their tourism-related federal concerns.
Fifteen Specifics. As examples, my tourism agenda will include these fifteen specifics:
1. Visa waiver. Pursue expansion of visa waiver program especially to non-participating Asia-Pacific countries.
2. Expedite Taiwan and China. Expedite visa waiver status of Taiwan (already nominated) and China (pursue nomination).
3. Visa issuance. Expand number and availability of consular officers to expedite visa issuance especially in China.
4. Open skies. Pursue open skies agreements with Asia-Pacific countries especially China to facilitate expanded direct flights to/from Hawai’i.
5. Approved destination status. Fully implement U.S.-China Approved Destination Status agreement to facilitate wholesale group travel.
6. Immigration and customs. Assure adequate staffing and resources to expedite and ease immigration and customs procedures at ports of entry Honolulu and Kona.
7. Trade. Implement further fair trade agreements with travel components, especially with Asia to include the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
8. TSA. Assure adequate staffing and resources to expedite and ease security procedures for all Hawaii-related travel.
9. Travel Promotion Act. Implement/strengthen the Travel Promotion Act of 2010 creating a public-private partnership to promote the U. S. as a travel destination abroad.
10. Hawaii voice. Assure Hawaii representation on federal tourism promotion and other efforts.
11. International conventions. Pursue further APEC-type international/regional agency meetings.
12. International tourism. Assure full U. S. participation in international tourism organizations such as the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
13. Business travel. Preserve tax treatment of legitimate business, meetings, events and performance incentives travel.
14. Online marketing. Resolve continuing federal/state/industry disagreements over taxation of online tourism marketing.
15. Senate Travel and Tourism Caucus. Join and lead the Senate Travel and Tourism Caucus to provide coordinated bipartisan advocacy in the Senate for U. S. tourism industry.
With strong and effective leadership in the U. S. Senate on these and other initiatives, we can assure that Hawaii tourism remains a responsible and sustainable foundation of our economy.
Here is a short video summarizing my tourism agenda. I welcome your questions and suggestions.
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