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Published on : Saturday, May 30, 2015
Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced their intent to expand air preclearance operations to Narita, Japan and nine new foreign airports which would boost tourism and help the government achieve its goal of attracting 100 million visitors annually by 2021. U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Co-Chair of the Senate Tourism Caucus, held hearings on the state of the tourism and travel industry last year, and worked with the U.S. Department of State to make it easier for low-risk international travelers to visit the United States.
“We’ve been pushing for preclearance for two years, and it has gone from pie in the sky to reality,” said Senator Schatz. “This is the first step towards making it a lot easier for Japanese visitors to come to Hawai‘i. Although work remains to be done, this also has enormous implications in terms of our efforts in establishing direct flights from Japan to Kona.”
Senator Schatz continued, “In the last Congress as Chairman of the Tourism Subcommittee, this was my top tourism priority, and I’m happy that we’ve made progress towards this goal. I want to thank the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority and the Obama administration for recognizing the economic potential of our hospitality industry.”
The preclearance program stations U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in foreign airports, clearing travelers at their point of origin to avoid lengthy processing at busy U.S. airports. This would also allow airports without CBP international facilities, including Kona Airport, to begin accepting international flights. Last year, Japanese tourists made up 18% of Hawai‘i’s visitors and brought more than $2.5 billion into Hawai‘i’s economy. CBP currently operates 15 preclearance locations in six foreign countries.