Visitors from Japan aren’t coming back in droves, but officials see encouraging signs

Hawaii reopened travel from Japan almost a full week ago.
Updated: Nov. 12, 2020 at 10:59 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A week after travel from Japan restarted, tourism officials are already seeing encouraging signs that travel is ramping up from the state’s top international market.

The number of tourists coming in from Japan is still far below normal.

The first day that pre-travel testing was opened for travelers from Japan on Nov. 6 brought 64 passengers on a Honolulu-bound All Nippon Airways flight. Roughly 120 Japanese passengers arrived on Nov. 7 and the same amount on the third flight on Nov. 10.

That stands in stark contrast to the more than 143,000 Japanese visitors who came in September 2019.

One deterrent for Japanese travelers: Those returning to Japan must still quarantine for 14 days.

Eric Takahata, managing director for Hawaii Tourism Japan, said he’s hoping that will change in the coming months. “The Hawaii government is working very hard at lobbying on behalf of Hawaii to get that lifted,” Takahata said. “It’s not looking like it’s going to be anytime real soon, but we’re hopeful.”

In total, there were only eight flights from Japan scheduled for this month, but ANA is increasing its service to and from Hawaii next month. The airline will offer two round trips per week between Tokyo, Haneda and Honolulu. It plans to expand service further toward the New Year.

“The signs are there, we see positive movement. ... We’re looking really good for Japan,” Takahata said.

The fact that Japan was added to the pre-travel testing program was encouraging enough for many tourism-focused businesses in Waikiki to reopen, preparing for those incoming visitors.

The Sheraton Waikiki is reopening Thursday after being closed for months.

It took that time to do a big renovation before welcoming guests back. The hotel has updated guest rooms and added a number of new security and safety protocols to keep guests safe.

Sheraton says it has the newest oceanfront guest rooms in Waikiki.

“This is by far the most popular and beloved property for Japanese visitors to Hawaii so the fact that it’s opening back up today is a sign of good things to come,” Takahata said.

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