Hawaii’s tourism industry anticipates a gradual return of visitors from Japan

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Published: Oct. 3, 2021 at 4:19 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 4, 2021 at 4:59 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As Japan officials ease COVID restrictions across the nation, Hawaii’s tourism industry can expect a rebound. But industry leaders anticipate the return of Japanese travelers will be a gradual one, and it will be some time before Hawaii’s economy sees the positive impacts.

During the height of the pandemic, the number of Japanese visitors in Hawaii plunged more than 80%.

Tourism experts are optimistic that the Asia travel sector — which was once a driving force of Hawaii’s tourism field — will gradually get back to full steam.

Japanese visitors used to account for about 15% of Hawaii’s annual visitor count but the average Japanese tourist spend 25 percent more per day than the average mainland tourist.

“I do know there is pent up demand for travel. We have been speaking with some of the travel writers there and some of wholesalers and I think they just want to make sure they do it correctly,” said Keith Vieira of hospitality consulting firm KV & Associates.

Vieira said many tourism leaders in Japan are waiting for the governor to tell the public that it’s okay to travel to Hawaii again -- after he told travelers to defer their trips back in August.

“The sooner we can tell people it’s safe to be in Hawaii the better,” added Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

“We all know now the risk is low. We’ve seen our hospitals drop 60 percent we’ve seen our case counts drop 75 percent from peak.”

Right now, Japanese visitors have to quarantine for 14 days when they return home. But tourism experts say they expect that the Japanese government will eventually reduce if not eliminate that restriction.

Green thinks the state should also pursue other strategies.

“I think it would be great to have a bubble with Japan and I know the governor talked about it in the past. But now is the time to implement it,” Green said.

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