As Japan expands travel to Hawaii, experts say it’s a positive sign toward economic recovery

But Japanese arrivals are slightly slower than what economists forecasted.
Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 9:19 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 2, 2022 at 10:24 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Japan has recently started lifting more COVID restrictions, allowing more people to travel to Hawaii.

But Japanese arrivals are slightly slower than what economists forecasted.

“This is good news and qualitatively, it’s what we expected,” said UHERO Economist Carl Bonham. “Whether we hit the kinds of numbers that we were forecasting, is yet to be seen.”

Bonham said about 850,000 people flew into Hawaii in July. About 30,000 of those passengers were from Japan which made up around 4% of the total.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Japanese visitors made up nearly 20% of arrivals and approximately $2.5 billion of the state’s tourism revenue.

Bonham said economic uncertainty and the surging value of the US dollar against Japanese Yen could be causing pushback.

“They’re going to have to spend quite a bit more for what they used to, versus what they used to spend for a typical Hawaii vacation,” said Bonham.

More routes are now available for travelers from Japan.

On Tuesday, Japan Airlines resumed service to Kona. Hawaiian Airlines also restarted daily service from Haneda to Honolulu as well as Narita to Honolulu.

The economist said that’s an indication that the demand is there.

“This is kind of important, because as we go into the fall, and into 2023, we expect to see a softening of demand for travel from U.S. visitors, as they confront higher costs,” Bonham added.

As for those who want to visit Japan, there will be fewer restrictions but vacations are still heavily restricted. Unless you’re traveling on business or visiting a relative, tourists must travel with a tour group on a set itinerary.

At Non-Stop Travel, Managing Director Gene Miyake said they have about 800 people signed up to fly up there the next four months. He adds that visas are required.

“So, we’re hoping that it drops but for now, it hasn’t so we’re just chugging along and getting those applications out,” said Miyake.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority said Japan is holding off on easing travel restrictions for foreign visitors until the end of the year due to a seventh wave of COVID but they’re not expecting to add new rules.

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