REJECTED visa applications are keeping thousands of Chinese tourists from visiting Hawaii.
More than 2,000 of the 6,000 Nu Skin distributors in China who were planning to attend a conference are not able to attend because of visa troubles.
Next month’s convention of the direct marketing company that sells personal care products was to have been Hawaii’s largest incentive travel group from China.
Typically, 10 percent to 15 percent of visa applicants for large groups traveling to Hawaii are denied, but the Nu Skin rate was significantly higher.
Hawaii and other US cities looking to increase Chinese tourism have been working with the US Travel Association to advocate for visa improvements. Since a 2011 China US Tourism Leadership Summit in Kailua-Kona, reductions in visa processing times and the introduction of nonstop flights and longer-term visas helped spark growth.
However, some travel officials say that they are concerned about the Trump administration’s effect on travel.
Reene Ho-Phang, managing director of Hawaii Tourism China, said attempts to limit travel from specific regions of the Middle East and Africa may not be aimed at Asia, but still create unease for Chinese visitors who fear travel restrictions could worsen.
“Everyone is keenly awaiting a meeting between China’s President Xi Jinping and President Trump,” Ho-Phang said.
Ho-Phang said the issues with the Nu Skin conference has alerted other would-be visitors of the stress of getting a visa.
“Word has spread in the industry, and it’s impacting other groups. Some are postponing group bookings by a year,” Ho-Phang said.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority has estimated that if all of the Nu Skin members had come to Hawaii, it would have brought US$15.9 million in corporate spending to the state and generated US$1.9 million in taxes. Instead, Nu Skin sent about 2,000 incentive winners to Bali, Indonesia.
Hawaii forecasts arrivals from China will increase 2 percent to 173,479 this year, with spending expected to rise to US$434 million-plus.