POSTED: 7:35 p.m. HST, Jul 6, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 7:36 p.m. HST, Jul 6, 2011
WAILUKU >> Maui officials are in South Korea hoping to encourage tourism between the country and the island, the Maui News reported Wednesday.
Mayor Alan Arakawa, County Council Chairman Danny Mateo and other county officials left Tuesday for the weeklong trip, which will include visits with the mayor of Seo-gu and Korean travel contractors.
The mayor of Seo-gu, Hwan-yong Park, had asked if Arakawa would travel to Korea and meet with him. "That's how the whole thing started," said Teena Rasmussen, the county's economic development coordinator.
"Korea's economy is booming," she said. "The people want to travel, and they love to play golf."
The Maui officials hope to take advantage of South Korea's surging economy, a visa waiver program and a new direct flight from Seoul to Honolulu. "We want a long-term relationship with Korea for travel, cultural and educational exchanges," Rasmussen said.
In addition to Park, the group plans to meet with officials from other municipalities, Korean travel contractors and film industry leaders.
Maui Visitors Bureau Executive Director Terryl Vencl said it's important for Korean travelers to understand that the Maui community supports their visits. "We certainly do expect an increase in visitors," she said.
Other officials on the trip include county Department of Finance Deputy Director Jeremiah Savage and Kit Zulueta, the mayor's chief of staff.
County spokesman Rod Antone says the county is paying a total of about $5,300 in airfare for the Maui officials. Maui resident Kapsoo Kim is traveling with the group as a translator. The Maui Visitors Bureau is paying for Kim's travel.
The wives of Arakawa and Savage also are traveling with the group but they are paying their own way, Antone said.
Managing Director Keith Regan will be acting mayor while Arakawa is away.