'Golden Week' golden for state tourism

State Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert
State Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert
JTB USA Travel Agent Musashi Kataoka
JTB USA Travel Agent Musashi Kataoka

By Sean Ibara

WAIKIKI (KHNL) - There's no doubt the state is hurting.  Visitor arrivals have been steadily declining, but tourism officials are hopeful that a spike in Japanese visitors during "Golden Week" will help resurrect a struggling tourism industry.

"We know that the Japanese spend more per person per day than any of our other visitors do," said Marsha Wienert, the state tourism liaison.  "So, any time we have an increase in those visitors, that means that our spending will increase."

Preliminary numbers from Japan Airlines show a 14 percent increase in passenger count headed to the islands, compared to the same time last year.

Travel agents and tourism officials say lower fuel surcharges, a strong Japanese yen exchange rate, and a flexible Japanese calendar are contributing to the higher numbers.

Musashi Kataoka, a JTB USA travel agent, says compared to last year, the Japanese yen is so strong that when Japanese come to Hawaii, they can spend more money compared to last year.

"It's really a calendar issue this year and the calendar is definitely positive," said Wienert.

But along with the added bonuses and incentives, travel agencies say the draw of just coming to the Hawaiian Islands is attractive to the Japanese.

"Hawaii is famous for Japanese people and lot of Japanese people are hesitant to speak English but in Hawaii, a lot of people understand Japanese," said Kataoka.

And the anticipated increase couldn't have come at a better time.

"We're looking forward to a very good Golden Week this year," said Wienert.

This year Golden Week runs from April 29 to May 6.