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Slight increase in Japanese visitors after eased restrictions, but obstacles remain

Hawaiʻi is seeing a slight increase in Japanese visitor arrivals this month, but not as much as initially anticipated.

Earlier this month, Gov. David Ige announced the state would ease its travel restrictions for international travelers, aligning with federal guidelines.

The state’s visitor industry applauded the move, ahead of a usually busy winter travel season.

According to daily visitor counts from the state, 720 Japanese visitors traveled to the state in the week after restrictions were lifted — fewer visitors than the previous seven days.

Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority President John De Fries said the Japanese travelers arriving in the islands are more affluent or on business.

But it’s still early in the season and there are other obstacles for Japanese visitors.

"I think what we have to be mindful of is that there’s still a 10-day quarantine upon returning to Japan," De Fries said. "For the major portion of the Japan market, that is a substantial deterrent when you plan to come to Hawaiʻi for five days, seven days, even for two weeks."

"To be able to go home and invest another 10 days in quarantine is a substantial commitment. So until the Japan government sees fit to revise and reduce that restriction, I think it’s going to continue to adversely impact the number of visitors that we can anticipate," he told Hawaiʻi Public Radio.

De Fries said he remains optimistic the state will see a busy winter travel season — and an increase in international arrivals.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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