Weak yen, rising fuel prices push back anticipated rebound of Japanese arrivals
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, the flow of Japanese arrivals is a trickle compared to pre-pandemic times ― and the strong dollar means Hawaii’s international rebound could be further away than hoped.
Oahu resident Jacqueline Hurd was waiting for her ride, fresh from a Japan tour.
“The plane was empty,” Hurd said. “I had a whole row to myself.”
Aoki Yutaka, consul general of Japan, said Japan had a COVID peak in August so there is still a fear of travel infections. But the larger factor is cost: Airfares are still high because of rising fuel prices and the yen is historically weak against the dollar.
On Hawaii News Now Sunrise on Wednesday morning, Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram said the airline has downgraded its revenue estimates for Japan routes.
“The yen exchange rate to the dollar is going to make it challenging for Japanese visitors to travel here, given all those expenses in US dollars, and their yen is doesn’t go as far now,” Ingram said.
Hurd said as an American in Japan, she benefited from the lopsided exchange rate.
“It’s good for us but bad for the Japanese when they come here because their yen doesn’t go as far as it used to versus our dollar which goes a lot further,” she said.
The slow recovery is disappointing the Hawaii industry.
Even though Japanese arrivals only make up about 15% of the Hawaii market, they are what people who hope tourism could be better managed call “quality” visitors ― respecting both the people and the land.
Sen. Glenn Wakai, state Senate Tourism chair, put it this way: “They are the most coveted visitors that we have, not just because of their spend, but because of the fact that they are just good citizens. And I think that we want to be able to entice them.”
But some predict when they return, potentially in the first quarter of 2023, it could be dramatic.
“We have the COVID-19 so we have no chance to go out,” said Naohiro Kasuya, a Japanese visitor.
“So I think that people wanted to go overseas. They will come.”
Ingram agreed, “And people really do want to travel, they want to get back to the experiences they love. And I think we’ll see the same thing in Japan. We’ve just got to give it a little bit of time.”
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