Hawaiʻi brings business to Japan while tourists make a slow comeback
The number of Japanese tourists who have visited Hawaiʻi during this year's first quarter is down 73% from 2019.
Prior to the pandemic, the number of visitors was more than triple the amount of this year's 99,000 visitors from January through March.
First-quarter spending from the Japanese market in 2019 was more than four times the amount of this year's $163 million.
There are a few reasons why the Japanese market hasn’t made the same comeback as the U.S. market in terms of tourism.
"One is they’re more cautious. They’re very conservative. They’re very safe," said Kenneth Fink, director of the state Department of Health. "As you know they wear masks even when there isn’t a problem like COVID."
"Number two, the yen has been weak for some time so it’s difficult for people from Japan to travel," he said.
Fink added that Japan has also been subsidizing travel within their own country because they "wanted to keep their people home."
There’s a movement to bring Hawaiʻi businesses to Japan now that their strict entry restrictions are gone.
Dennis Ling with the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism said that Hawaiʻi products create a connection in lieu of an actual visit to the islands.
"They have fond memories of their visit to Hawaiʻi, but factors being what they are, they may not be coming to Hawaiʻi," Ling said.
Importers in Japan have brought in “Made in Hawaiʻi” products to sell at department stores and gift shops.
Another way Hawaiʻi businesses market their products in Japan is through international gift fairs. Major events include the Tokyo International Gift Show and the Hankyu Hawaiʻi Fair in Osaka.
About 35 local companies will participate in the Tokyo International Gift Show this fall. They’re expected to make $6 million in export sales and generate $500,000 in taxes.
Last week Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism announced it will waive 8,000 yen for citizens looking to get a 10-year passport. It costs 16,000 yen to get a new 10-year passport.
The country is encouraging international travel to support its foreign investments, including travel companies and airplane routes.
Hawaiʻi Tourism Japan said tourist arrivals are expected to return to 40% to 50% of the pre-pandemic levels during the third quarter.