KONA, Hawaii – The United States announced on Friday that it intends to enter into negotiations to expand air preclearance operations to ten new foreign airports, a move that could benefit Kona International Airport.
The Department of Homeland Security says the expansion will include Narita, Japan – a key airport for Kona – and help the government achieve its goal of attracting 100 million visitors annually by 2021. The other countries include Belgium, the Dominican Republic, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
From the Dept. of Homeland Security:
If negotiations are successful, preclearance – where each traveler undergoes immigration, customs, and agriculture inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) before boarding a direct flight to the United States– could be completed before departure from these foreign airports rather than upon arrival in the U.S. Expanding the preclearance program is both a security imperative – enabling CBP to stop potential threats before they arrive on US soil – as well as a strong economic opportunity.
“A significant homeland security priority of mine is building more preclearance capacity at airports overseas. We have this now in 15 airports. I am pleased that we are seeking negotiations with ten new airports in nine countries. I want to take every opportunity we have to push our homeland security out beyond our borders so that we are not defending the homeland from the one-yard line. Preclearance is a win-win for the traveling public. It provides aviation and homeland security, and it reduces wait times upon arrival at the busiest U.S. airports,” said Secretary Johnson.
U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, Co-Chair of the Senate Tourism Caucus, held hearings on the state of the tourism and travel industry last year.
We’ve been pushing for preclearance for two years, and it has gone from pie in the sky to reality. This is the first step towards making it a lot easier for Japanese visitors to come to Hawai‘i. Although work remains to be done, this also has enormous implications in terms of our efforts in establishing direct flights from Japan to Kona. In the last Congress as Chairman of the Tourism Subcommittee, this was my top tourism priority, and I’m happy that we’ve made progress towards this goal. I want to thank the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority and the Obama administration for recognizing the economic potential of our hospitality industry.” Sen. Brian Schatz
Sen. Schatz pointed out the impact this will have on Kona, saying the preclearance program will also allow airports without CBP international facilities, including Kona Airport, to begin accepting international flights.
Governor David Ige focused on the benefits to Honolulu in a statement released later in the day.
I would like to thank Hawai‘i’s congressional delegation and the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority for their work to expand preclearance to Japan’s Narita International Airport. Preclearance has been a top priority for my administration and I’m happy to see that it is moving forward. It would provide our valued Japanese visitors with a more pleasant arrival experience by alleviating congestion at the Honolulu International Airport, the state’s only international airport and currently the country’s fourth busiest international port of entry. Easing access will encourage travel to the neighbor islands and repeat visits to our beautiful state.”Gov. David Ige
The Hawaii Tourism Authority said the announcement was great news for Hawaii’s visitor industry.
Japan remains our 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. Preclearance at Narita, one of the busiest international airports in Asia, will provide greater ease of access and save time for travelers departing Japan when they arrive in the Hawaiian Islands.
One of the major initiatives for the HTA is to distribute visitors across all of the Hawaiian Islands. Preclearance would allow for direct travel from Narita to the neighbor islands without having to transit at Honolulu International Airport, currently the state’s only airport with Customs and Border Patrol. It would also provide relief for other international travelers to the state, lessening the total number of visitors having to go through customs in Honolulu.
Since Narita Airport is a major international hub for other countries in Asia, preclearance at Narita could also help to stimulate growth from other markets that transit through Japan.”George Szigeti,
President and CEO of HTA