Fueling less Japanese visitors to Hawaii

Marsha Wienert
Marsha Wienert
Toshiya Kishimura
Toshiya Kishimura
Mika Kobayashi
Mika Kobayashi

By Duane Shimogawa bio | email

WAIKIKI (KHNL) - More bad news flying our way that could clip the wings of potential Japanese visitors headed to the islands.

"Any further detriment to increasing those numbers just makes it more difficult for Hawaii to get back on their feet," State tourism liaison Marsha Wienert said.

A key segment of Hawaii's visitor market may drop off even more as a fuel surcharge takes effect October 1st for Japan's two largest airlines.

Japanese visitors once flocked to Waikiki in droves. But those days are gone, and state tourism officials say it'll get worse with a fuel surcharge soon taking effect at Japan's two largest airlines.

"We are concerned in regards to what the increase will do," Wienert said. "Our Japanese numbers are not anywhere near what we'd hope they would be."

Fuel surcharges earlier this year have reflected poor visitor arrivals, with big losses in four of the first six months, compared to last year.

"I hope to enjoy Hawaii, but the surcharges too expensive," Japanese visitor Toshiya Kishimura said.

Tourism officials feel this surcharge comes at a very bad time, with the global economic downturn and swine flu concerns already on their plate."

"There's not a lot that anyone can do, it's a business decision, I mean you can understand that business decision, the airlines today are just not in the situation where they can absorb financial losses," Wienert said.

Adding to the travel woes is the traditionally challenging fall season, where less visitors come to the islands.

Mika Kobayashi of JTB U.S.A., a travel company that caters to Japanese visitors, says many of her customers are trying to buy tickets before the surcharge takes effect.

"So now to the end of September, many people looking for the December and Christmas season and New Year's season ticket," she said.

Kobayashi added that bypassing the surcharge made a big impact on sales during the winter season as JTB reported a 40-percent jump in sales.

"We're hopeful with the aggressive pricing that we have in the market, that those visitors will say yes, now's the time to travel," Wienert said.

This isn't the first time a Japanese airline introduced a fuel surcharge. Back in 2005, in response to rising fuel costs then, it added surcharges on international tickets.