As he prepares for inauguration, Green heads to Japan in bid to promote Hawaii tourism

Experts say the timing is right to promote Hawaii tourism.
Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 10:16 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 12, 2022 at 2:23 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - IGov.-elect Josh Green is headed to Japan to meet with government officials and travel industry executives in hopes of promoting Hawaii’s tourism industry.

“Japan is an important international partner with deep ties to the islands and we look forward to strengthening our connection,” Green said.

After two years of lockdowns, Japan fully reopened for travel on Oct. 11.

And experts say the timing is right to promote Hawaii tourism.

“I think that’s the most important thing is saying, ‘hey we’d like you to come back. It’s time.’ So I think it’s a very good message,” said Keith Vieira, longtime hotel industry executive and head of KV & Associates.

Right now, the annual Japanese visitor count is less than 10 percent of the pre-boom years. Japanese tourists are key to improving Hawaii’s economy because they spend more than mainland tourists.

But the recovery of the Japanese market won’t happen overnight. The exchange rate for the Japanese yen is high compared to the dollar, making it more expensive to travel here. The airlines in Japan have also added steep fuel surcharges that have increased fares by several hundred dollars.

“(Costs) probably more than doubled what it was prior to the pandemic and that’s a challenge,” Vieira said.

Some experts say the rebound in the Japanese market will be gradual, bouncing back to about half the pre-pandemic levels by next year.

“It’ll be a while before the Japanese come back, we’re looking at not even maybe next year could be in 2024, that we really see that resurgence of the Japanese comeback,” said Ryan Tanaka, of the Hawaii Restaurant Association.

But given that the mainland market has been so strong up now, even a gradual rebound in Japanese arrivals will help lift the local economy and provide a boost for many of the small businesses and restaurants in Waikiki.