Visa-free travel for Koreans to the United States began this Monday, a result of a long overdue (given their economic status as the 10th largest economy) change in US policy, that could significantly increase the number of visitors from the Republic of Korea (South Korea). The first visitors somewhat predictably went to Hawaii and arrived at Honolulu international airport. Hawaii alone is expecting 80,000 additional visitors! That would be welcome relief for the beleaguered islands. The mainland too stands to gain from pent up demand particularly given the presence of substantial numbers of Korean-Americans in the North East and in Southern California.
The visa free regimen for Korea was part of an initiative launched by President Bush last month and includes six other nations: Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Hospitality operators in gateway cities reeling from the current economic climate would do well to target Korea and some of the other wealthy and populous countries including Hungary and the Czech Republic.