Hannemann discusses visa waiver program with McCain in Chicago
At a meeting in Chicago today, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann emphasized the need to balance national security concerns with the needs of foreign visitors and the U.S. hospitality industry, according to a news release.
Hannemann urged U.S. Sen. John McCain to support the timely expansion of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, especially for visitors from South Korea, which would greatly benefit U.S. tourism.
In a meeting in Chicago with several other big-city mayors, tourism industry executives, McCain and Sen. Joe Lieberman, Hannemann stressed that foreign travel to the U.S. has declined 17 percent since the 9/11 attacks, while international travel in general has grown by 20 percent.
"We have lost 250,000 jobs. A lot of that is due to we are now regarded as an unfriendly place to visit," Hannemann said.
Today's Travel Business Roundtable meeting followed an address by McCain to the National Restaurant Association, which had also invited all other presidential candidates to speak.
McCain stressed the importance of U.S. trade with South Korea, and said relations between the two countries were of "profound strategic importance."
Hannemann participated as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Standing Committee on Tourism, Arts, Parks, Entertainment and Sports. In a private meeting with McCain, Hannemann stressed the importance of the Visa Waiver Program, especially with reference to South Korea.
At the 76th Annual Conference of Mayors, to be held next month in Miami, Hannemann will introduce a resolution urging his mayoral colleagues to support the timely expansion of the Visa Waiver Program for visitors from South Korea.
"We should welcome South Korea to join the 27 other countries, such as Australia, Japan and Spain, that already participate in the Visa Waiver Program, making it much easier for their citizens to visit us," Hannemann said. "But we must be mindful of legitimate security concerns, and must not jeopardize public safety."
Hannemann said it will be very important that our next president and administration understand and appreciate the importance of travel and tourism to the economies of our cities and our nation.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors has developed a 10-point plan to guide the new president and Congress in addressing issues that affect Americans.
As a result of Hannemann's efforts, the plan includes support for tourism and the arts, and calls for the creation of a cabinet-level secretary of culture and tourism charged with forming a national policy for arts, culture and tourism, according to the news release.