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Asia Minute: Japanese travel packages are soon coming back to Hawaiʻi

Visitors from the continental United States continue to come to Hawaiʻi in growing numbers — while travelers from Japan are still a relative trickle. But this week, there’s news about a change in the air.

It’s official: Japanese tour groups are slowly getting back to business in Hawaiʻi.

Sales begin Friday for a package tour to the islands from Japan’s largest travel agency, JTB — just in time for the start of Golden Week at the end of the month.

That’s a stretch of Japanese national holidays that during non-Covid times mark a very popular period for travel.

JTB says its departures begin in two weeks — while travel agency HIS announced it will start doing its own package tours on May 1.

It’s been more than two years since either has offered package tours to Hawaiʻi.

Pent-up demand could mean a busy summer — but there are limits.

The Japanese government is limiting the number of people who can enter Japan — including residents returning from vacations.

Just this week, the government raised that daily cap to 10,000 people — up from 7,000.

Last week, a delegation from the Japan Association of Travel Agents came to Hawaiʻi for a scouting trip.

Through February, Japanese visitors have been arriving at about 2% of pre-COVID levels.

In 2019, more than 1.5 million Japanese visitors came to Hawaiʻi — nearly triple the size of the next biggest international travel market for the state — Canada.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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