Back in December, the Chinese and U.S. governments signed a memorandum of understanding that allows Chinese travel agencies to market U.S. destinations in China and makes it easier for Chinese tourists to enter the United States. The first wave to travel under the agreement began arriving in Hawaii last week, and they’ve loving it. They say it’s much prettier than the island of Hainan, a vacation spot known as “The Hawaii of China.” So far, the 150 Chinese who have arrived have visited the Pali Lookout, the Makapu’u lookout on East Oahu, Hanauma Bay, Pearl Harbor and the historical area of Downtown Honolulu. Several organized groups will be arriving from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong on six flights over several days.

This is good news for the U.S. as well as for Hawaii because both are looking for new tourism markets. The number of Chinese visitors to Hawaii has gone up every year since 2003, and the new agreement bodes well as Hawaii is the main gateway to the U.S. mainland from Asia. Chinese tourists are big spenders, lavishing an average of $6,000 for each visit to the U.S. The U.S. Commerce Department says that’s more than the average spending of visitors from any other country. The current tour groups will be moving on to visit Washington, D.C., New York, Philadelphia and a few California cities.

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