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With restrictions eased, experts say Hawaii could soon see ‘wave’ of international travelers

Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 4:50 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2021 at 7:39 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s doors opened wider Monday to international travelers and experts are predicting this will help jumpstart a rebound for the state’s economy.

“I think it’s gonna come and when it comes, it’s gonna be a wave,” said Jerry Agrusa, University of Hawaii-Manoa School of Travel Industry Management professor.

“One of the things that’s happening right now is the airlines are all gearing up. They’re getting the flights out. There’s more demand than there is supply at this time.”

Before the pandemic, international tourism accounted for over $5 billion in visitor spending a year.

Agrusa says the state will see more activity from the Asian market, specifically families and newlyweds from South Korea long waiting for a vacation and with money to spend.

“Some of the folks who’ve been waiting, they’ve been saving their money,” Agrusa said. “So an original honeymoon was seven days. Now, it might be 12 days or 14 days.”

Hawaii gets its most revenue from Japanese visitors, but the holdup is a strict 10-day quarantine when they go home.

The restrictions have been a direct hit to Wyland Galleries in Waikiki, where Japanese tourists accounted for 30% of business.

“I think we’ve had maybe two people from Japan shipping art in the gallery since March of 2020,” said Wyland Galleries Waikiki Director Jean Riehl Doyle.

“It’s been really rough because we had to cut staff, we were open less hours. A couple of people probably aren’t coming back that were really essential to our business, like two of the Japanese speakers that were great with all the art and artists.”

Agrusa says Hawaii’s high vaccination rates, low case counts and testing requirements will be part of the attraction.

“That will make residents feel safe and the tourists feel safer,” Agrusa said.

“Here in Hawaii, we should be looking at selling safety because the only way people are coming here are by airplane and if we can keep that going, we’ll be the place.”

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