Hawaii tourism officials optimistic with Japan loosening restrictions

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — In Japan, COVID vaccination rates are up and case counts are trending down. Now, the Japanese government is loosening restrictions gradually, and local tourism officials are hopeful this will result in the return of Japanese visitors to Hawaii.

Hawaii Tourism Japan says the news couldn’t have come at a better time.

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“Maybe over $200 million, that’s the kind of the figure that we’ve been getting from the industry that they’re losing a month,” said Eric Takahata, Hawaii Tourism Japan managing director.

The Japan market brings 1.7 million visitors to the islands each year, spending about $250 per person, per day. Visitors from Japan aren’t just known for being the highest-paying tourists.

“We want the Japanese traveler back. You couldn’t find a more respectful, more pono kind of visitor to Hawaii. They’re very respectful of our culture and our natural resources,” said Takahata.

However, one challenge in getting the Japanese tourists back is their travel restrictions.

“Even if they’re vaccinated, they have to take a COVID test to come here, and they have to take another COVID test when they go home and quarantine for 14 days,” said Jerry Agrusa, UH Manoa Travel Industry Management professor.

The Japanese government is considering reducing the 14-day quarantine to 10 days. Meanwhile, experts predict with the return of the Japanese tourist will come the return of a stable workforce.

“The wedding companies or businesses that depend on the Japanese visitor are hurting. You see a lot of businesses not being able to reopen, because the Japanese visitor is not back here in any significant way. So a lot of hotel properties tell us the same thing,” Takahata said.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority is preparing for more international travelers by working with global agencies to get this message across.

“We’re asking that vaccinated travelers come. We’re asking that travelers wear their masks, wash their hands, stay socially distant, and respect the rules that we have,” said Kalani Ka’ana’ana, Hawaii Tourism Authority chief brand officer.

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Hawaii Tourism Japan says they expect the end of this year to be a busy booking period for Japanese tourists, and hopefully Hawaii will see them return in early 2022.

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