As Japanese travel slowly ramps up, experts hopeful for future of Hawaii tourism

The number of international travelers, including Japan, is rising but it's still far below pre-pandemic levels.
Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 10:31 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Before the pandemic there was no shortage of multi-national corporations and other organizations looking to book their meetings and events at the Hawaii Convention Center.

If you drive by the convention center these days, it’s pretty rare to see a whole lot of activity. Though, local travel experts that focus on international tourism, say interest in booking those large events is slowly coming back.

Eric Takahata of Hawaii Tourism Japan, says that there are still several things that deter Japanese visitors from returning to Hawaii. Namely a surcharge on fuel costs that add around an extra $600 per person for those flying here.

He says that coupled with the fact that you still have to take a PCR test to return to Japan is keeping some of them from coming in bigger numbers.

”Right now, it’s about $600 or even a little over $600 per person round trip to travel to Hawaii. So you can imagine a family of four times six would be $2,400,” said Takahata.

However, they are staying longer and spending more.

”Spending is up which is a good thing and but we’re seeing the average length of stay for the Japanese visitor go up by three days. We were up around six days pre-pandemic, right now we’re at about nine days per person,” added Takahata.

Looking ahead, Takahata says there are several occasions and holidays and other big events like the Honolulu Marathon that will bring a lot more visitors from Japan to the islands.

“Last year, we had around 30,000 runners a year — half of them were Japanese. So, we don’t know what the numbers are going to be for this year, but it is the biggest event for the Japanese, you know on an annual basis,” said Takahata.

Even the recent big milestone of the first flying honu from All Nippon Airlines coming back to Hawaii on July 1 was more or less a drop in the bucket.

That day, 822 visitors came in from Japan.

Comparing that to the nearly 5,000 that flew in on the same day in 2019 — there is still a long road ahead.

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