May 29, 2015

Hirono: Expanding Preclearance To Japan Is Good News For Hawaii’s Tourism Industry, Economy & Japanese Visitors Eager To Visit Hawaii

Governor Ige, Hawaii Tourism Authority Praise The Expansion Of Preclearance To Japan, Highlight Impact It Could Have On Hawaii

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that it will take a significant new step towards the expansion of its preclearance program to Japan’s Narita International Airport which currently offers direct flights to Honolulu International Airport.

“The fact that that the United States will go forward in working to expand preclearance to Japan’s Narita International Airport is a good news for Hawaii’s tourism industry, the economies of our state and nation, and visitors from Japan who are eager to visit Hawaii,” said Senator Hirono. “Japan is one of our closest allies and our countries have so much to offer one another. Travel between our two nations is just one way we can continue to strengthen our relationship. Tourism is our state’s number one industry and anything we can do to promote travel to Hawaii is a step toward strengthening our economy and creating jobs.”

Today’s announcement follows on the efforts of Senator Hirono and other stakeholders to advocate for expanding the program to Japan. In February, Senator Hirono led a bipartisan letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Secretary of State John Kerry urging them to expand preclearance to Japan. The letter was signed by Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

In the letter led by Senator Hirono, the Senators wrote:

“In 2013, travel supported a total of 8 million U.S. jobs. Visitors from Japan in particular spent $18 billion, second only to visitors from Canada. Providing preclearance at Japanese airports would help expand tourism and the economy… Expanding preclearance to Japan will help to improve U.S. competitiveness in the emerging outbound tourism market in Asia…. Including Japan among the few nations hosting CBP preclearance operations recognizes the longstanding trust and security cooperation between our countries.”

Hawaii Governor David Ige also wrote to Secretary Johnson and Secretary Kerry calling for expanded preclearance operations and the positive effect it could have on Hawaii’s economy. Governor Ige praised the announcement today:

“This is wonderful news for Hawaii.  Japan is Hawaii’s  largest international market.  Japanese visitors account for about 18 percent of international travelers to Hawaii, translating to about $1.5 billion a year to the state’s economy.  Easing air access to the islands is important to facilitating travel to the islands, especially as we experience a decline in visitor arrivals from Japan,” said Governor David Ige. “Pre-clearance would help alleviate congestion at the Honolulu International Airport, the state’s only international airport and the fourth busiest international port of entry in the country.  This would give our valued customers a better travel experience and encourage repeat visits to Hawaii.”

Furthermore, the Hawaii Tourism Authority wrote to Secretary Johnson and Secretary Kerry to highlight the benefits of expanding preclearance to Japan including that Japanese visitors spend more than U.S. visitors and nearly 60% of Japanese visitors to Hawaii are repeat travelers. Today, Hawaii Tourism Authority applauded the announcement:    

“Today’s announcement that the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol intends to expand preclearance for Japan’s Narita airport is great news for Hawai‘i’s visitor industry,” said George Szigeti, HTA president and CEO. “Japan remains Hawai‘i’s largest international market, with more than 1.5 million visitors coming to the islands in 2014, making up 18 percent of visitors to the state. Pre-clearance at Narita, Japan’s largest international airport, would provide greater ease and save time for travelers from Japan when they arrive in the Hawaiian Islands. Furthermore, it would also allow direct travel from Narita to the neighbor islands without having to go through Honolulu International Airport, the state’s only airport with customs and border patrol.”

Preclearance means that the same immigration, customs, and agriculture inspections of international air passengers performed on arrival in the United States can be completed before departure at foreign airports instead, which benefits passengers, airports, and air carriers. Prior to traveling, passengers go through U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspections and upon arrival in the United States, preclearance passengers would be treated as domestic passengers which saves visitors the time and hassle of waiting in customs lines at U.S. airports. Preclearance is also good for national security because it allows CBP to better utilize its limited resources on our soil, while scrutinizing travelers before they even gain access to U.S. bound flights, and if necessary, deny a passenger the ability to board an aircraft long before they reach our border. CBP Preclearance is currently available at 16 airports in six countries.