Businesses hope for the best as Hawaii prepares to reopen to Japan travelers Friday

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Travelers from Japan will be welcomed back to Hawaii on Friday, Nov. 6.

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The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) said they are predicting that hundreds of travelers from Japan will come in on the first day. HTA’s President John De Fries said the first step to ensure that the pre-travel testing program for Japan goes smoothly is informing travelers of what they need to do and the rules in the state.

“In addition to announcements about the Hawaii protocol, there is an in-flight safety and health protocol video that they will see,” said De Fries.

When visitors arrive, Japanese translators will be in the receiving area of the airport to help answer any questions that they may have, and this information will also extend to hotels.

“Because those hotels specialize in it, they’re surrounded by translators they’re surrounded by translated documents and information that’s bilingual,” said De Fries.

He said that they are also hoping this will help will bring back some jobs, although the HTA does not know yet how many it could bring.

“The bulk of (jobs rehiring are) going to come with transportation companies, locally with hotels, certainly, and then again in restaurants and retail centers that cater to the Japan traveler. That’s where you’re going to see the buildup.”

John De Fries, Hawaii Tourism Authority President

For businesses that rely on tourists from Japan, they say that they are cautiously optimistic.

All Nippon Airways said they have brought back dozens of workers from furlough to staff limited flights from Japan, but will wait for demand to pick up before adding more.

“We do not expect Honolulu flights fully by then. We’ll continue to monitor the government regulations and passenger demands closely to make swift and safe action,” said All Nippon Airways Honolulu General Manager Hiroshi Shibata.

The president of ABC Stores, which currently has 20 out of its 35 shops in Waikiki open, said that they are carefully considering any additional reopening of stores.

“It’s a day by day monitoring of our sales and pedestrian traffic. If we’re pleasantly surprised and the numbers are good, then we will take the next steps to open more stores,” said ABC Stores President Paul Kosasa.

He said welcoming Japanese visitors back is good, but there is still a lot of work to be done to restore the economy.

”Visitors, when they come to Hawaii, want to have a good experience. They want to dine out at restaurants and shop in retail,” said Kosasa. “If you walk down Waikiki right now, there’s still a lot of merchants and businesses that are still closed as a result of Tier 1 and Tier 2.”

De Fries said they are looking at Canada next to expand the international pre-travel testing program.

“We’re ready and expect some kind of public announcement from at least one or two of their air carriers shortly because their trusted partner program is underway,” said De Fries.

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