HONOLULU (KHON2) — A big missing piece of the tourism puzzle is showing signs of a comeback, travel to and from Japan will be ramping up, and local business owners said they are starting to notice benefits from their return.

Tourism, a major lifeline for the state is on its way to recovery and with the third biggest visitor market, Japan, increasing flights back to Hawaii, hotels, restaurants and other shops are preparing for busy months ahead.

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The Prince Waikiki Sales and Marketing Director Joy Anderson said they are noticing more bookings from Japan.

“In regards to the Japanese market, with the ease of restrictions, and some additional good news with the return of some flights anticipated this summer, we are definitely starting to see a pickup in our booking pace for the future months,” Anderson said. “I’d say anywhere from 30 days all the way up to 12 months out.”

In anticipation of Japanese visitors, Anderson said they are starting to market more toward that demographic. Influencers from Japan are a part of their marketing strategy.

Anderson said, “we’ve been very busy working with their media partners as well as influencers, and we’re really just trying to be visible and create that awareness that Prince Waikiki is definitely ready to welcome back our Japanese visitors.”

Restaurants such as Cafe Morey’s in Kapahulu usually rely on business from visitors, the assistant manager of the restaurant, Edwin Fabro said they are expecting a busy summer.

Fabro said, “we’ve already been experiencing some Japanese tourists here, and when they come they come in like big groups so we’re ready for that.”

Fabro said they understand the power of social media to attract international visitors, they are meticulous about plating, making every dish picture perfect.

“We want to make sure that we read our comments and things like that, we want to see what the trend is,” said Fabro.

At neighboring restaurant Pioneer Saloon, the menu is both in English and Japanese. The Chef and Manager Sho Shimabukuro, who is originally from Okinawa, said, visitors from his country differ in the way they spend their money compared to Americans.

“They like to spend more over here, even like little stickers that we have. They like to purchase even little stuff — that’s the difference — totally different from mainland tourists and Japanese tourists,” said Shimabukuro.

Fabro who experienced the shutdowns of the pandemic said being busy has never felt so good.

“That was the hardest 10 months, I had been out of work for 10 months and that was hard during covid and things like that, we can’t complain that’s how it really is,” Fabro said. “We survive on tourism.”

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Japan’s government increased the daily cap of those entering the country to 20,000. And airlines such as Hawaiian Airlines plan to increase direct flights to Japan this summer.