By AUDREY McAVOY
HONOLULU — Hawaii will likely welcome more visitors from Taiwan now that the U.S. has eliminated a visa requirement for Taiwanese citizens, state officials said Tuesday.
About 8,000 Taiwanese travelers visited last year, and about 10,000 are expected this year, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said.
The state agency predicted more will come, just as South Korean travelers began visiting Hawaii in greater numbers after the U.S. extended its visa waiver to that country in 2008.
Hawaii expects over 140,000 South Korean visitors this year, more than three times the number that came in 2007.
Taiwan is smaller, with a population about half the size of South Korea’s 48 million, but the island nation is wealthier by some measurements. The World Factbook compiled by the Central Intelligence Agency estimates Taiwan’s per capita income was $38,200 last year, putting it 27th in global per capita income rankings, ahead of Britain and Japan.
South Korea came in at number 40, with per capita income of $32,100.
“Increasing ease of access to Hawaii is great news for our economy. It will be much easier to travel to Hawaii from Taiwan, and puts us on track for steady growth in this market. Hawaii’s relationship with Taiwan has never been stronger,” Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz said in a statement.
Having an airline fly nonstop to Hawaii from Taiwan will be critical for developing the market, the tourism authority said. China Airlines, a Taiwanese carrier, has a daily flight to Honolulu from Taipei but it stops at Narita airport outside Tokyo.
The agency said it will work with Hawaii Tourism Asia, which markets the islands to countries in Asia other than Japan, and industry partners to increase travel from Taiwan.
Former Gov. Linda Lingle, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, said she was pleased with the news.
“Together with the visa waiver status for Korea and some practical ‘fixes’ to the visa issuance process in China, Hawaii is poised to see and benefit from even more visitors from the Asia Pacific regions,” Lingle said.
The new visa policy takes effect on Nov. 1. Starting on that date, Taiwanese visitors traveling to the U.S. on tourism or business for 90 days or less will be able to come without a visa.