Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Oct. 30, 2011) – As the U.S. and Guam economies continue to struggle, implementing a visa waiver for visitors from China and Russia becomes increasingly important.

In 2010, more than 57 million Chinese traveled out of their country, and that number is expected to increase to more than 83 million by 2015 -- but just more than 2 million to the United States, according to the China National Tourism Administration.

These visitors spend about $1,200 a day for their trips, including airfare. Increasing the number of visitors from China that come into Guam and the rest of the nation would mean more economic activity, and more jobs.

But unless the United States acts soon to change the cumbersome process Chinese must go through to obtain a visa to visit America -- a process that can take 120 days and is costly -- that money will go to other countries.

The U.S. Travel Association states that increasing, travel to the United States could create 1.3 million jobs by 2020, and since money spent by visitors to the U.S. counts as exports, it also would help achieve a national goal of increasing exports.

For Guam, the local government estimates that a visa-waiver for visitors from China would mean about 250,000 additional tourists to the island within three to five years. That will translate into hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into the local economy on an annual basis, not to mention new jobs to offset the island's high unemployment rate.

These visitors to Guam also would mean additional money to the federal government. The Travel Promotion Act of 2009 requires that each visitor to the U.S. has to pay a $10 fee, so with 250,000 Chinese tourists a year, the federal government would rake in $2.5 million just in fees.

It also must be made clear that the military buildup and the further development of our tourism industry aren't mutually exclusive. It's not a case of one or the other -- Guam's economy needs both.

Granting Guam a visa waiver for visitors from China and Russia makes economic sense, not just for our island, but for our nation. And the sooner it's given, the better.

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