HONOLULU (KHON2) — Locals are not alone if they have noticed more Japanese visitors in Hawaii.

Things are not entirely back to normal, but tourism officials said international travel has started to trickle back to the Islands.

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Hawaii Tourism Japan said Japanese arrivals have trended up since summer 2022.

“We’re at about probably somewhere near 25 percent of where we were pre-pandemic in 2019,” said Eric Takahata, Hawaii Tourism Japan managing director. “We were down in the single digits there a couple months ago.”

“In the year-end or the new year, we’re looking at about 40 percent of the airlift that we had pre-pandemic in 2019.”

Eric Takahata, Hawaii Tourism Japan managing director

A big indicator of Japanese tourism in Hawaii is the Honolulu Marathon, which has online registration.

More than 5,200 entries from Japan were confirmed as of Tuesday, Nov. 29 — well below the usual 16,000 to 17,000. The president and CEO of the Honolulu Marathon pointed to 2021, when only 400 Japanese visitors signed up.

“So we’re up from 400 to over 5,000; that’s good. And, we do anticipate that by next year that things will be looking pretty normal,” Dr. Jim Barahal said. “Still a far cry from where we usually are, but I think a good leading indicator that people are willing to come back, I think it’ll be by far the biggest event form Japan since COVID started.”

Takahata said fuel surcharges and the dollar-to-yen exchange rate are some remaining issues, though the rate has eased since summer.

“Yesterday it came down to about 138 in the yens favor, which is a far cry from our high mark of 152, late summer, early fall,” Takahata said.

Perhaps the biggest issue will be getting travelers used to international trips again.

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“Domestic travel is picking up in Japan, so that’s a good sign because we have people getting used to the idea of going back and forth between places again,” Takahata said.