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Local tourism businesses reliant on Japanese market continue to tread water

halekulani hotel.jpeg
Courtesy Halekulani Hotel
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Japan is set to relax more restrictions for inbound and outbound travelers on Oct. 11, but some businesses aren’t banking on an influx of visitors just yet.

Starting Oct. 11, travelers to Japan will no longer require a visa — and a cap on the number of daily arrivals will be lifted.

Tourism officials in Hawaiʻi hope that will eventually help increase the number of Japanese visitors to the islands. But figures out last week showed a continuing slump in Japanese arrivals to Hawaiʻi — less than 20% of pre-Covid levels.

"The hospitality industry around the world is one understandably marked historically by what I'd call a certain type of anxious optimism or feeling that the industry is entitled to be doing better, and the world doesn't work that way. So I think it's important for businesses in these situations to be extremely realistic," said Peter Shaindlin, chief operating officer of the Halekulani Corporation — including its Waikīkī luxury hotel.

The fact that the Japanese yen has lost nearly 40% of its value against the dollar is having an impact on the type of Japanese tourist visiting Hawaiʻi, Shaindlin says.

“A majority of the Japanese that we see coming in are more affluent because they can afford the high air, they can still combat the strong dollar and spend. That’s why many Japanese travelers coming in tell me informally that the front of the plane was full, but that economy was sparse. So it all makes sense and I think it’s a function of currency exchange and the strong dollar," he told The Conversation.

Shaindlin says he expects pent-up demand to increase the number of Japanese visitors to Hawaiʻi, but likely not until 2023.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Sept. 29, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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