Japanese Tourists Decline During Golden Week

WAIKIKI (KHNL) -- Japan's national holiday, known as Golden Week began Monday.

It's a time when large numbers of Japanese visitors come to Hawaii and pump more dollars into the State's Visitor industry.

The Star Beach Boys at Waikiki Beach look forward to this time of the year but, on this first day of Golden Week, not much is glittering.

For the Star Beach Boys, their umbrellas are the only things that are golden. They rent them out along with surfboards and surf lessons, chairs and canoe rides. But this year's Bolden Week is just like any other.

"Golden Week in the past has actually been really busy but this year,  it's been kind of slow, not too many tourists," said Sierra McVeigh, a Beach Boy employee.

Willie Grace has been giving surf lessons for about 25 years at Waikiki Beach. Years ago, he began noticing a drop in the number of Golden Week visitors.

"I guess it's Golden Week but I haven't seen much of the Japanese tourists in town like it used to be back in the 70's early 80's. There used to be a lot of them and a lot of them would take surf lessons from us. "

Now more than ever, the Star Beach Boys depend on providing top notch customer service to attract more Japanese visitors.

"Just try to speak a little Japanese and make them feel comfortable, most of them try to share the Aloha like the Beach Boys have."

Over the past few years, Japanese visitors accounted for about half of the Star Beach Boys surfing customers. Now it's down to about one quarter, even though the popularity of the sport has grown in Japan.

"I guess surfing is a big thing in Japan too. So I don't know Golden Week is more like silver or copper now for us."

The waves in Waikiki are expected to roll in over the next few days. The Star Beach Boys are hopeful the Japanese visitors will roll in with them.

The Hawaii Visitors Authority is expecting a decline of visitors from Japan in this Golden Week numbers, due to an 8% drop in available airline seats.